What Happens in a Decade?
As I sat with my family on December 31st, 2019, about to ring in the new year, I asked my children what they thought about the holiday. My oldest son reflected: “It’s the end of a decade, mom. This time ten years ago I was just a baby – and in ten more years, I’ll be…an adult!” My youngest son said, plainly: “It’s just another day.”
They’re both exactly right.
In the span of ten years, our lives have changed dramatically. We’ve welcomed a new child into our family. We’ve said goodbye to some of our most-loved family members. We’ve lived through transitions in where we live, work, and go to school. And: in the span of those same ten years, we have lived our lives in very ordinary ways, one day at a time. Grocery-shopping, picking up and dropping off kids, showing up to work, feeding the dogs, cleaning the carpets, attending baby showers and funerals.
What happens in a decade? The very small, seemingly insignificant; and the very big, very significant.
At DePaul, the same holds true. Hundreds of families and staff have shown up every day to do the work of growing others and building families. They’ve made meals. Signed papers. Taken walks with someone. Played basketball with a child. Accompanied someone at the doctor. Helped someone brush her teeth. Listened. Gone on home visits. Asked and answered questions. Made phone calls. Sat through difficult meetings. Delivered good news and bad news. Said hello and goodbye. Celebrated and grieved.
The work of growing people, the work of hope and belonging, is the day-to-day ordinary work of installing car seats and wheelchair ramps. It is also the immeasurably significant work of making possible what was never supposed to be:
A young man everyone said would never have a family – he has one now. One who loves him no matter what. One that would sacrifice everything to be with him.
A young woman who knew only institutional care – now she knows intimate human connection in a family who will never give up on her. A family of relationships that are mutually enriching.
A mother with an addiction who never thought she’d be able to see her children again – now she has a healthy and safe relationship with them, and the support she needs to stay clean.
In the span of a decade, the people in this organization have drastically changed the trajectory of more lives than we can count, in ways that will have an impact for generations to come. They’ve done very good work and they’ve done it very well.
And, in the span of the same decade, a difficult truth still keeps all of us up at night: No matter how good we are, how well we work, how passionate or compassionate or capable we are, no matter how healthy our organization, there still exists, beyond the walls of our offices and homes, a status quo that refuses to budge. How can we tell? Because in the span of the same decade in which we made permanent, loving families a reality for thousands of children and adults, there remain long waiting lists for permanent, loving families.
What would you do if your sister was on a waiting list 13,000 people long for services she needed to live a full life, a life with services that met her unique needs?
What would you do if a child you loved was on a waiting list more than 800 children long for a family who could care for her unique needs, who would love her unconditionally like you do?
I think you would work to understand why.
I think you would find others who were in the same boat.
And I think you would fight as hard and as smart as you could to change that reality.
As a faithful friend and supporter of DePaul, you do not believe it is acceptable for anyone to be on a waiting list for a forever family, for the life-changing services they need. As a champion for hope and belonging and a member of this tribe of helpers, you do not want another decade to go by with this reality.
You, friend, are in good company.
DePaul is committed to understanding, to finding other champions, and to fighting for a Virginia where no one languishes on a waiting list for a family to care for them.
As we work to build understanding and community around this mission, we need your help. Here’s my request: If you have a story to share, a story about why this fight matters to you, let us know. If you know someone with a story, or who would be a great partner in this fight, let us know. Reach out to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your support. We need you now more than ever.
With gratitude in our hearts and fire in our bellies,