Thursday, October 17, 2013

“I'll take anyone.”

You might have seen this story. If you have not, take a look here or here.

Davion Navar Henry Only is a 16 year-old young man, without mother or father or family. What he does have is guts and a deep desire to be loved. Last Sunday, with the encouragement of his case-worker, Connie Going, Davion went to church and made a request. It’s not so unusual to go to church and make a request. In my experience, however, those requests most often are sent God’s way, not expressed with such pathos directly to the congregants. Davion made a direct request to those he stood before. He asked for a family. Imagine what it might be like to do such a thing. The terror in asking, as a child, to be loved.

As the stories note, Davion said, “I'll take anyone. Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don't care. And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be.”

You don’t hear every day of a 16 year-year old asking for a family. Yet the power of this story lies in the fact that it is very much an every-day story. There are scores of children who would love nothing more than to have a family to belong to and to love them.

I almost didn’t read this article because I knew it would be painful to absorb. Like so many others, Davion has a lot going against him in life. His mother gave birth to him in prison; nothing is said in the news stories of his father. In fact, as reported, he never knew his mother or father, and has been raised in various temporary homes for his whole life. He just discovered this year that his mother had passed on, which one of the stories suggests motivated him to wait no longer for what could not come from those quarters.

Not surprisingly, Davion has had some difficulties with anger and managing his behavior. But as the stories make clear, he’s attempting to turn that all around. If the stories are accurate, his motive is not only to be a better person but to earn what many children can take for granted. The poignant part is the obvious part. A young man pleads for what he’s never had, which is something too many children never will have: stability and love.

I usually write about statistics and trends and policies and personal behaviors that impact one’s odds of lasting love. I usually write without putting a face on the pain that is behind the ever-increasing numbers of children who have the hard luck to be born in what I clinically call “low-commitment contexts.” That’s a tidy and descriptive term for the increased odds of pain that come when children do not have adults committed to raising them. When I use this term, I do not mean to judge the parents of such children harshly. What would be the point? Many people who have children in low commitment contexts are hardly adults themselves (and I merely mean, age-wise), and many of any age grew up in contexts filled with family instability. While one can easily understand—hopefully with actual compassion—the difficulties that lead so many children to be exposed to unstable or even dangerous homes, that understanding does not lesson the consequences to individuals, society, and the hearts of children.

I wanted to draw attention to the story of Davion because he says so clearly what is rarely put into words. He wants a family, and he knows he’s running out of time to experience one as a child.

For those of you who work to help others better understand relationships, love, and commitment, Davion is the face of why your work matters. You are doing something important. And for those of you who have adopted and taken in children like Davion, you are heroes.  I cannot think of a more apt word for the love you dare to send into the world.