Tomorrow, is my oldest son's sixteenth birthday. His road so far has been a long and difficult one, especially considering he is so young. Between his start in Western Africa, knee deep in war, starvation, and violence, and his thrust into the United States where survival means learning to do more than find food, shelter and safety, the last decade and a half have tried all our faith.
Now, at sixteen, he looks forward to what most kids do...Dating, Driving, part time jobs, High School and an independent future. The world we live in is not as hard as the one he came from. It is far more complex, confusing and convoluted. Simple survival was easier and his struggle over the last 16 years has thrown him into a world of relationships, behaviors and thinking that is more foreign to him than the little desert town in which we live. Its been a battle for the whole family, but so entrenched was he in his old thinking, it was a disaster for him.
Love, patience and long suffering was necessary on all our parts, but no more so for us than for him.
The fight isn't over, its just beginning. However, after all the battles, the successes and failings and the broken minds and hearts along the way. This, his sixteenth birthday, is sweet.
He is working, keeping up in school, functioning and thriving socially and behaviorally and bonding with the family. It isn't perfect, what part of life is? What teenager doesn't struggle to find their way in the world?
A mere year and a half ago, I was searching the streets after he'd runaway. Two years ago he was in jail. Six months ago he was missing again. Today, he is on his way to work, on public transportation, unaccompanied and capable. These may not be hurdles for anyone else. For Him, they are monumental. A kid who dug for food in garbage cans, protected himself with sharpened pieces of metal and mistrusted anyone who came near, now has friends, co-workers, teachers and brothers who love and adore him. He is climbing the mountain and reaching for dreams for the first time.
As bitter sweet as your life has been, Joshua, you are a brilliant, beautiful, fantastic kid. Never forget how sweet success can be. I love you, bud. Happy Birthday!