Do It Now
Decades ago, Abrazo’s founder was a bored high school student listening to a motivational speaker drone on, and every twenty seconds, he would pause dramatically to utter a three word warning:
DO IT NOW!
That speaker’s name was W. Clement Stone, and he wrote the book Success through a Positive Mental Attitude with Napoleon Hill. Stone had made millions selling insurance, and one of the recipients of his generosity was the Interlochen Arts Academy, where Abrazo’s founder was a scholarship student.
Elizabeth and her classmates were required to attend Mr. Stone’s long, repetitive speeches, and they often got the giggles as the tiny man with the seemingly-painted-on pencil mustache repeated his catch phrases with oblivious delight. “Do! It! Now!” he would thunder, then he would fall silent, as if struck by lightning.
“Fiiiiive… longgggg… seccccconds… havvvve… passsssed…” He would intone dramatically. “Think! Think! Make a change. Do it now!”
The boarding school students had all been given a complimentary copy of Stone’s book and were expected to read it, but Elizabeth and her classmates were largely unaware of Stone’s material success. The philanthropist W. Clement Stone, who started out shilling newspapers to diners in restaurants, eventually donated over $275 million to charity before his death in 2002 at the age of one hundred.
Working in adoption, neither Elizabeth nor any of Abrazo’s employees will ever amass the sort of wealth that W. Clement Stone had, of course. And yet, it was the late millionaire’s message that came to mind this weekend. That was when the agency received word of a tragedy in Houston that happened to befall one of Abrazo’s birthfathers, a man who surely could have benefited from Stone’s positivity, if only he’d been able to learn from him.
This weekend, that birthfather was shot in the face following an altercation at an apartment complex in the early morning hours. He tried to drive himself to a hospital for help, but he ended crashing his car. He died shortly thereafter, leaving his son’s birthmom to relay the sad news to the adoptive mom, who then had to face the hard task of breaking it to her son.
This birthdad was just forty years old. He hadn’t been a part of the open adoption, by his own choice. Now, the son who was adopted will know him only through his connections with the people who knew his birthdad in this lifetime.
It could have been so different… if only it had been.
“If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.”
W. Clement Stone never had any adoption connections of which we know, but as it turns out, he did have some wisdom to share even with those in adoption relationships, as evidenced by the quote above.
Abrazo’s adoptions are open, of course. Yet that doesn’t always mean that all the people involved in every adoption we do choose to stay in touch– much as we wish they would.
Some birthparents think it will hurt less the more they stay away; they tend to find out too late that the longer they deny their feelings, the harder those are to deal with later on in life.
Many adoptive parents work hard at honoring their children’s connections with their birthparents, as the adoptive mom in this case has done, but some try valiantly for years to engage them without ever getting much response, for reasons unknown, which becomes understandably exhausting in time.
And some adoptive families misread the birthparents’ lack of communication as disinterest, and give up trying, thinking the adoptee can seek the birthfamily out “down the road” if they so choose, but this makes the adoptee responsible for doing what the parents have failed to do on their behalf, which was simply to keep in touch so the adoptee would never have to search for what was always his/hers to begin with.
Open adoption isn’t a magic bullet, and it cannot cure all the losses that come with infertility, crisis pregnancy, or pregnancy loss or family divisions. But love goes a long way towards answering the questions that come with each of those things, and empowering children to know and love all “their people” (those by birth and those by relationship) helps kids who have been adopted to grow up whole (and hopefully, more happy, as a result.)
“Success is achieved and maintained by those who try and keep trying.”
The final efforts of the birthfather in Houston to get help may not have resulted in the saving of his life, but he did succeed in getting help, as EMS responded to his car crash, and as a result, he did ultimately make it to a hospital, so he did not die alone.
His family, as well as his son who was adopted and his son’s mom and birthmom will be together to pay tribute, when he is laid to rest.
He did not afford himself the pleasure of knowing this son in this lifetime, yet his boy is a smart, talented young man with mad skills in baseball, who is sure to achieve great things in life. He regularly makes his mother and his birthmom and his teachers proud, and we hope he knows that his every success will be a credit also to his late birthfather.
So if there’s one takeaway in all of this, perhaps, it comes from the wisdom of W. Clement Stone, who reminds us that there’s no time like the present to reach out to those we love and tell them what they mean to us.
If you’re a birthparent who has lost touch with the family of the child you placed, or if you’re an adoptive parent who longs for some connection with your child’s birthparent(s), or if you’re a grown adoptee who is trying to find the courage to pursue a search and reunion, don’t assume that there’s plenty of time to make it happen… do it now.
Because life is short, and time is precious, and adoption connections matter. Please, don’t wait! Don’t put it off. Your peace of mind is more valuable than you know.
Make a change. (Do. It. Now.)