For those of us who typically watch the Super Bowl just to enjoy the commercials, Toyota had an unexpected emotional gut-punch waiting for us, disguised as a car commercial.
It took just 60 seconds to provide an overview of the life of Jessica Long, one of the most decorated U.S. Paralympic athletes.
It showed her swimming through scenes from her life—her first months of life in an orphanage, to learning how to walk without legs from the knee down, to finding a gift for swimming, to accomplishing amazing athletic goals. And it all circled back to her adoptive parents getting the phone call about a baby who needed a family. A baby with some unique challenges.
For parents of kids who have faced their own challenges, this story felt familiar, even if the specific needs are different. For adoptive parents, it felt especially poignant.
I have gotten that call. The call that a child needed me. A child on the other side of the world with an uncertain future. I’ve said “yes” to the barest of information in both international adoption and foster care with fear and hope all mixed together. I’ve clutched the phone and prayed for a sign that we’d know this was the right thing to do. I’ve answered with a certainty I wasn’t sure I felt, but deep in my soul, I knew. Whatever this child needed, we would be there. We would walk that road together.
Seeing that moment through the eyes of this adult, the adult who was once a vulnerable child—it was beyond powerful.
It is what we all hope for our kids. That they will see a beautiful story in their lives that we’ve been blessed to be part of. We want them to know how excited we were, even in our fear. We want them to know our love for them, see our support for them, and we want to have equipped them to be the best versions of themselves they can be, whatever that may look like. In the moment of that terrifying and precious phone call, that’s the end goal we’re hoping to achieve in spite of (or because of) all the obstacles.
When a child with an uncertain future comes into our home through birth, through adoption, or through foster care, we are committing to whatever the future may hold.
Even if our kids may never be champion athletes, they are still our heroes. They have overcome challenges the rest of the world may never know about. They have fought hard for every milestone. And for all of it, we have been on the sidelines, cheering them on. We learn so much about their bravery, our own ability to advocate, and the preciousness of life.
Last month I watched the pediatrician examine my foster daughter and tell me how “normal” she was. I hoped she didn’t see me holding back tears. Sometimes “normal” is a miracle and it’s one I’m exceedingly thankful for. In that moment, I remembered the phone call we got for this baby. The uncertainty we said “yes” to for this child and the other children we’ve been blessed to love.
I am happy we were able to say with Sarah Long’s mother: “It might not be easy, but it will be amazing.”
Read Sarah Long’s thoughts on the touching ad on Instagram: