Jul 122012

“I just wanted to say goodbye.”  I looked up from my paperwork to see his blond head poking through the doorway of the clinic.  “I’m leaving today.  They found a home for me.”  It had only been a couple of weeks since he arrived at the emergency foster shelter, but I had fallen in love with his broad grin and hi-5’s as I passed through every morning.  I gave him a quick hug, but then he pulled back, and with a serious look on his face, dug into the back pocket of his faded jeans, pulling out a worn white letter-sized envelope.  He opened it and dumped out its contents.  A few dollar bills and some coins bounced across my desk.  I looked up, puzzled.  “It’s to help the other kids, the ones here who don’t have much.  It’s all I have.”

My mind jumped to a centuries old story of someone else who gave everything. 

While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box.  Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins.  “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them.  For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”  Luke 21: 1-4 (NLT)

I was speechless, and when I didn’t immediately respond, he backed up a step and dropped his head a little.  “I know it isn’t very much, but it’s all I have and so many kids here don’t have anything.  I thought maybe I could do something.”  I didn’t know what to do so I just grabbed him and held him tight.  One last hi-5 and he was gone, but in no way forgotten.  His words are still with me.

“It’s all I have.  I thought maybe I could do something.”

What could the foster system look like if a bunch of people thought we could do something if we gave everything we have.  Resources.  Time.  Home.  Family.  Love.  I’ll tell you what it would look like – it would be a story of hope so great that it would still be talked about in 2000 years.  Is it worth it to you?  Will you give all you have?  Or just whatever you have left over…

Aug 092010

Recently I was asked to speak about the health needs of foster kids at a conference. As part of the preparation, the conference planners asked me to send them a bio, a paragraph about who I am, that they could use to introduce me. I quickly jotted down the standard stuff – pediatrician, faculty at a medical school, medical director for foster care, mom – and sent it off. But over the last few days, I have been haunted by some questions:

“Who am I? What is the first thing I want someone to be told about me? If what I am about could be summed up in a word or phrase, like an epitaph on a tombstone, what would it be?”

I love my job. And I love my role as a wife and a mom (well, at least when the kids are behaving…). And I can’t even begin to explain how much I love working with foster kids. But the truth is, that all of those answers are incomplete. They are a little hollow. Today, though, I found the right words, the right phrase.

I am an investor. An investor in people. An investor in the possibility that tomorrow can look different than today, that under the right circumstances a person’s life course can be altered in a positive way. An investor in the idea that a few people can change the world, and that maybe I can help push those few people along.

Investing is costly. It takes my energy, my money, my time, my reputation. It is also risky. Sometimes things don’t go the way I want them to. Sometimes people aren’t willing to be invested in. Sometimes they don’t seem to believe in themselves as much as I believe in them. But when we choose to invest in people, the dividend that is paid is priceless, more precious than anything else in the world.

      So if I was writing my bio, or designing my tombstone, I think I would want it to simply read:

Deb Shropshire, Investor in Humanity

What would you want your tombstone to read?