I know what you’re probably thinking.
The headline of this post is a bit much. It’s a bridge too far. A significant overstatement.
Sure, you have a great deal of respect for adoption and adoptees, but has the institution of adoption really changed your life and the way you live?
After all, the odds are pretty good that you weren’t adopted. Just between two and three percent of American children are.
Maybe you know somebody who was adopted – or whose family adopted.
But that’s them.
We’re talking about you.
But it’s true.
Adoption has changed your life in ways big and small.
Here are eight ways adoption has influenced and continues to impact the way you live:
Since its launch in June of 2007, over 1 billion iPhones have been sold. Today, over 40 percent of smart phone users have one. Its inventor, Apple’s founder Steve Jobs, was adopted as an infant by parents living in Silicon Valley. As a result, Steve literally grew up surrounded by computer pioneers. His adoptive father was a machinist who worked on lasers and regularly invited Steve to tinker in his workshop garage. Steve credited his parents with instilling in him the curiosity and drive that led him to begin Apple computers.
John Hancock is probably best known for his over-sized and ornate signature on the Declaration of Independence. What you might not know is that he was adopted by his uncle after the death of his pastor father. John’s new dad ran a prominent trading company in Boston, an enterprise the youngster eventually took over. Over time, as head of the House of Hancock, John became infuriated with Britain’s onerous and unfair tax policies. With the help of friends, one of the future founding fathers organized the colonists’ resistance that would become the American Revolution.
3. Race Relations
As president of South Africa, the late Nelson Mandela leaned on the many lessons he learned from watching his adoptive father, Chief Jogintaba Dalindyebo, run their tribal community and deal with opposing viewpoints. A strong man of Christian faith (unlike Mandela’s biological father), Nelson’s new dad demonstrated servant-style leadership, tolerance, respect, and the art of diplomacy. Most important of all, Mandela credits Dalindyebo’s strong faith in Jesus Christ as an important factor in helping him endure decades of imprisonment.
By the time he retired from baseball in 1935, George Herman Ruth, Jr., otherwise known as Babe Ruth, was probably the most famous and beloved athlete the world had ever seen. Deemed “incorrigible” as a boy on the streets of Baltimore, Ruth was relinquished and dropped off by his biological father at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. Matthias Leo Boutilier became his new dad, introducing him to a more disciplined and orderly life, as well as the sport of baseball. “He was the father I needed,” Ruth said. “He taught me to read and write, and the difference between right and wrong.” Of course, Babe Ruth would go on to transform and popularize the game of baseball and helped to solidify it as America’s past-time.
Have you ever been to Wendy’s or ordered a pizza from Domino’s? Both businesses were founded by adoptees. As a young boy, Dave Thomas would eat with his adoptive father at restaurants and recognized how much people were enjoying themselves. It was then and there he decided it would be fun to own his own place and bring people similar joy. Wendy’s is now a worldwide empire, and the Dave Thomas Foundation remains committed to helping find forever homes for children. Tom Monaghan had no idea that his single pizza place across from Eastern Michigan University would eventually expand to become a global brand. Influenced by his strong faith, Tom would eventually invest the proceeds of his business into a wide range of philanthropic causes. Tom’s corporate ascent and eventual commitment to spreading the Christian gospel was only made possible because of the new parents in his life.
Johann Sebastian Bach and country favorite Faith Hill couldn’t be much more musically diverse, but it was their respective adoptions that helped change the course of their lives and music careers. Adopted by his eldest (and musically gifted) brother after the death of their parents, Johann’s new family didn’t just alter the trajectory of Sebastian’s life, it changed the course of music and the faith, possibly even the eternity of countless individuals. It was Christoph Bach, Sebastian’s adoptive father-figure, who both inspired and helped nurture the future legend’s musical gifts. Nearly 200 years later, it was Faith Hill’s adoptive mom who agreed to take the eight-year-old to see Elvis Presley, a concert that planted in her mind the desire to one day pursue a music career. And after Faith called home years later to lament her struggle to break into Nashville, it was the same mother who told her, “You need to hang up the phone and get busy.”
Literary critics are in near universal agreement that Leo Tolstoy was among the greatest novelists and literary craftsmen the world has ever known. He was clearly gifted, but it was in his difficult circumstances surrounding the loss of his family and subsequent adoption that he found his calling and voice. Writers always write best when they’re writing about what they know. Tolstoy’s work, like his life, reflected both joy and pain. He was able to put down on paper what so many people felt in their hearts. His adoptive story forever shaped his professional career.
The birth of Jesus of Nazareth, and thus Christianity itself, is the most famous adoption story of all time. We don’t know much about Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, but we do know that he bravely accepted his role and was faithful to the angel’s directive to take Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:20-21). All might have been “calm” and “bright” on the night of Jesus’ birth – but it wasn’t long before the tranquil scene of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus neatly tucked in together on a cold winter’s night nearly turned tragic. After all, a blood-thirsty king wanted the Baby dead – and the very Child who represented “the hopes and fears of all the years” was soon whisked away to safety in a foreign land. It’s so gritty. It’s mystery, mayhem, and chaos all wrapped up in one. In other words, in so many ways, it’s a classic adoption story.
Of course, it was the Gospel writer John who wrote that as Christians, we’re all adopted, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
Indeed, adoption has changed your life and the lives of those around you in both practical and profound ways. I welcome your thoughts and reactions. Do you have an adoption story? Are you thinking about adopting? Your reflections may help to serve as an encouragement to others.
Paul J. Batura is Vice President of Communications for Focus on the Family. Click here to listen to a conversation with Paul on today’s broadcast, Understanding the Impact of Adoption on the World. His book, “Chosen for Greatness: How Adoption Changes the World,” is available for purchase and is a great gift for anyone whose life has been touched by God’s gift of adoption.