This story I am sharing today, is one that I hope will touch you as deeply as it has me. Working with orphaned children, I often hear people say the problems that exist in the system today is largely due to the fact that we did away with orphanages. Bring back the orphanage and these horrors are erased. I wonder what they base that on, is it actual facts and statistics or something else? I am often perplexed and never know what to say after such a statement, since I have no knowledge or education about orphanages and religious institutions, that was until I met Dan (not my Dan) and he told me his story.
When I was a young boy, age 4, my mother and father were heroin addicts and had the absence of love and God. They also had 5 children and we were all sent to an orphanage called, St. Dominic’s. This orphanage gave my siblings and I the necessities of life, food, shelter and basic care, but no love. There were too many children for them to give any love, the basics at least allowed us to survive and move forward. There were at least 100 kids at the orphanage, it is hard to fault them.
At the orphanage, I was separated from my brothers and sisters, we were all sent to different facilities. I was one of two Caucasian kids and the rest were either African-American or Hispanic. It was really hard for me to fit in and love didn’t ever exist among us kids. The other failure I saw was lack of education, instead the focus was discipline, structure and routine for our lessons. When I graduated elementary school I went to my next home, St. Pius the XII school. Here was even less love than I felt before. It was a juvenile detention facility with a mix of trouble kids and orphaned kids with the same ethnic group. I was still one of the few Caucasian kids, I was the minority and treated as such, but I thought I was African-American in a Caucasian body. I got beat up on a daily basis and needed to blend in to survive, so I dressed like them, I talked like them, I walked like them and acted like them, because I had no other choice.
At St. Pius the XII the name of my unit was “Ding Dong,” I need not say no more. My preparation up until age 15 was probably that of an 8-year-old. The absence of love and education was a formula for dysfunction. The school took a picture of me without my knowledge and used me as their poster boy as the young, attractive white boy, to gain more funds to continue helping young troubled boys. I found my picture on one of the posts and it impacted me tremendously I took it down and kept it ever since. Mesmerized with my photo and inscription, I became aware of how much trouble I was in and how low my self-esteem was.
I take this photo out frequently, to remind myself of where I’ve been, how far I’ve come and it motivates me to do better. Soon after this picture, they decided to send me to the local public school one hour away. Try to imagine and uneducated white/black kid who never was around girls or normal people in normal circumstances…..I had no chance to succeed or to be understood. I was often expelled and after exhausting all local options they sent me to this group home. This group home was run by an older retired couple who made it their mission to take care of 10 boys. Imagine going from a facility that housed 100 boys my whole life to living with 9 other boys in a regular house. I had a culture shock and these caretakers actually cared and showed every one of us love. This was my first love drop of unconditional love. They helped me to cope with a real home and a real school where people were not dysfunctional and gave me a chance to actually learn. They gave me new life. God sent me to a place where two people gave unconditional love to all they cared for. This was powerful and life changing. THANK YOU GOD! AND THANK YOU MR. AND MRS. MULLER!
After receiving this first love drop, I soon began to be accepted in my new school, I felt welcomed and enjoyed many loving experiences. Remember I was never around girls until now and a whole new world was open before me my life was changed forever. I had enormous challenges to catch up in school and miraculously I did. I found out I was athletic and before I knew it I was in college. Unbelievable as it was, the Muller’s made me realize for the first time that despite my difficulties and challenges, I was blessed and God thought I was special and he would take care of me.
At college when Holidays came around everyone went home for a visit, everyone but me, because I had no home. My time at the Muller’s was over and new kids had their turn. I decided to visit my sister at the group home in the Bronx. There I met my second drop of unconditional love Sr. Marie Rose. She was like an angel from heaven. She couldn’t let me stay at the girl school for obvious reasons and took me under her wing introducing me to her family. They let me stay with them during the Holidays. This love drop sent from God was the biggest and longest unconditional love I ever experienced. I have been in their lives now for 38 years and consider them my permanent family. I adopted them. Through their love and continued support, I was able to get married and have a beautiful daughter. Sr. Marie Rose took on the role of my mother and her family became mine. At 30 years old, I legally changed my name to theirs. They were the love drop I needed to change my life from dysfunctional to a functional man, they taught me to believe in myself and understand that I was a child of God. They are the reason I graduated college, got married, held a full-time job and raised a beautiful child. I am forever grateful.
I think we all have to experience pain and absence of love to prepare us for the many miracles that come after, because only then can we see and experience the true love and power that God has to offer us all. In one moment, after all that pain, a miracle can happen and God smiles. This smile and spirit is without a doubt present in my heart today and my responsibility is to share it with others. Love is the bridge to the other side of pain, where life can be changed from surviving life to living a beautiful life made from love drops.
You can probably feel by now, the power of Dan’s story. He is one of close to 500,000 in the United States. I bring this story to you in hopes that it motivates you to actively pursue the many human rights issues we face today. If you are involved in pro-life groups in your churches, please consider the many woman who choose life and for various reasons can not take care of them. These children are poor and merciful and too often become victims. Let’s find ways to protect and nurture them becoming the love drops of unconditional love that they need and deserve to live as God intended.