Scottsdale Independent

Unto us a child is born: A Christmas Day message

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.  He shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

These words are from Isaiah 9:6.  That baby was born in a manger on a cold night, facing long odds from the very beginning.  His future would set a path for millions to follow practicing faith, love and community.

I met and held baby “J” recently.  A boy born also in a difficult environment, this baby did not have Mary and Joseph by his side to nurture and support him.  “Unto Us” in J’s case represents a loving foster home, an admittedly imperfect social oversight system, support services for foster families and ultimately every one who cares about children like J.

You see Baby J was born in a toilet to a mom who was at the time of birth on drugs.  The day I held him he had finally reached 10 pounds.  It took him five months to get there.  Yet another surgery is scheduled to try to repair his intestinal tract.  The colostomy bag has served a role over these months in stabilizing his bodily functions.

Thanks to the foster care system, this baby has the support of a loving family.  A place he can call home – at least for now, and hopefully forever.  The family who came forward for J has so many challenges to overcome – medical issues, operations, therapeutic services, not to mention the legal meetings – dealing with caseworkers, lawyers, judges and others who will all play an important role in determining what J’s life will look like.

This little baby born not in a manger, but in a toilet needs so much help.  This fragile life relies on people outside of his family tree who will care and love him.  He has been blessed to be placed with a loving home.  Despite his delays, in his eyes you can see the focus, there are signs of his heart and soul in his little smile.  At such a young age, no one knows what his future holds – but he HAS A FUTURE, and the prospects of that future are made brighter by the system, faulty though it may be, watching over him and doing all that is humanly possible to provide the supports that he needs to grow.

Support services for babies like J include our work at Arizona Helping Hands.  In 2017 we will provide more than 750 cribs to be sure these babies have a safe place to sleep.  We’ll provide 2,200 twin beds to give thousands of boys and girls in foster care their own spot of peace in a life filled with disruptions and trauma.  We believe giving a child her own bed is one of the most important services we can provide and this is the cornerstone of our work.

As on Dec. 25 when we celebrate the birth of the child born in a manger, every year we will celebrate J’s Birhtday (as we will 2,000 other boys and girls in 2017).  Our Birthday Dreams program sends the message that, despite J’s challenging beginning, or despite 9-year-old Sarah’s tough elementary years, being moved from family to family in search of her safe place filled with love, your birthday is the day to celebrate you.

To give thanks that YOU were born, YOU are special, YOU are unique and deserving of love.

Foster parents with all of the responsibilities and work they take on need support to boost these kids up.  Arizona Helping Hands is often the first support service on their journey, and we are one that stays around to help as the child grows and progresses.

We gave J a crib, along with clothing and diapers, and we also provided a few holiday toys for Christmas Day.  As he grows, he may need his first twin bed set and back-to-school supplies.  As on Christmas we celebrate the birth of a child, on J’s birthday our community will celebrate the birth of a baby.  Born in a difficult situation, but now surrounded by a loving family and provided the message that through the generosity of our community there are people who will gather around J to love and nurture and assist in his growth.

The Bible says of the child born in the manger that his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Who knows what Little J’s future holds, he might not have had a life at all.  But the foster care system, and the array of important programs supporting families who open their hearts and their homes to give him safety, comfort and love give him the chance to achieve his own potential.

Children like J are born every day.  Foster parents are investing their heart and soul into these precious little lives, and programs like Arizona Helping Hands try to relieve just a bit of the burden on their journey so that the potential of that one little life can be realized to the fullest possible extent – maybe to teach us all a new path of faith, love and community – maybe even to change the world!

To Foster Families we want to say that Arizona Helping Hands feels so privileged to be able to meet and support you, to provide a hug, to hold a baby to help with a word of support and a bit of comfort.  Take care of Little J, Sarah, Emmanuel and all these children who cry out for love, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us when you need a Helping Hand, we’re here for you!

Merry Christmas!

Editor’s note: Dan Shufelt is the president & CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, the largest provider of basic needs to Arizona’s children in foster care.  Learn more about the Organization at www.azhelpinghands.org and contact Dan at dshufelt@azhelpinghands.org