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The saving power of love

“You have to be ready to have your heart broken.”

If I’ve heard that sentence once, I’ve heard it 40 or so times over the past weeks. May was National Foster Care Month, and I spent some of the month talking with foster parents about their lives, challenges, hopes and dreams for the little ones who have spent time in their homes. I often heard how hesitant families are to even consider foster care, because they might have to give back a child.

Lisa Wheeler said it while we were having a conversation on a radio show about these things. She’s had 15 children in her home with her husband since 2011, including a sibling group of three right now, and has adopted two children from foster care.

“You’re always a part of that child. You’re a part of their journey and their history,” says Karen Strachan, who has fostered some 40 children over 20 years, adopting 11, with her husband. I recently talked with her after a forum at the Heritage Foundation about some of the challenges faced by faith-based agencies that facilitate foster-care placements and adoption. The Strachans have never changed their phone number — and never will, as long as they can help it — so that every child who has ever been in their home knows they can call anytime. They get “hello” calls and they get “I’m in jail” calls. Getting involved in foster care is about an all-encompassing love. But then isn’t life?

I keep hearing Lisa and Karen as I think about what just happened in Ireland. I hesitate to bring this up, as abortion tends to be such a hot-button issue. And foster care is such an overlooked issue. But they are related, of course, in many ways. The key one may be love. Perhaps it’s because we don’t celebrate self-sacrificial love enough that we find ourselves celebrating abortion.

I realize that the Irish may not see it quite that way — they may word it as “freedom” — but it’s “freedom” to double down on death, “freedom” not to accept surprise and the possibility of grace. Foster care, on the other hand, which only tends to make the news when there is some horror story to tell or a political debate pending, is about the freedom for radical hospitality. There is a selflessness at its core.

We need to encourage foster care and adoption, and make it household knowledge that there are people capable of such generosity, and not only for a child and a sibling group but for entire families — the birth mother and father and anyone else within the reach of their hearts — to believe in the possibilities for hope, renewal and redemption in their lives. Not only will cultivating such a celebration — with all its difficult but fruitful challenges — help promote life in our troubled culture, it will let us see that Irish and anyone else’s eyes can be smiling with the kind of love our hearts long for, the kind that reflects the gratuitous nature that most of us would like to believe God has for us.

There’s no freedom without life. Abortion may be legal, but with a superabundance of love it can also be abhorrent to the human heart. Not everyone is equipped to be a parent in the traditional sense, but the all-around self-sacrifice of foster care and adoption demonstrates the kind of love that draws us out of ourselves and our miseries. Birth moms who choose adoption are heroes and should know it. Foster families are beacons in an often dark culture, where people strain to see light. It’s a true love to celebrate.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at klopez@nationalreview.com

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Lopez

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