“Adopting” a Cousin

How meeting a Colombian orphan changed my life

By James Bell

“Alejandro” enjoyed an evening with our family at Heisler’s Cloverleaf Dairy near Tamaqua, Pa. He loved the Guers Lemonade, didn’t eat the french fries, and refused to try pierogies. (Photo by Alan M. Murray)

“Count your blessings.” My mother told me this from a young age. Now I’m a sophomore in high school and I understand what she meant. I see many people around me, some in better situations than others. I see students my age with learning disabilities and other challenges they have to face daily. I could’ve been face to face with similar difficulties.

During the very few Spanish classes I had over my long academic journey, I asked myself, “Why am I learning Spanish? Will I even need to use it? Is it really that important?” Turns out, I was completely wrong.

During the summer before this current school year, I learned that my cousins were thinking about adoption. Later into the summer months, I learned that they would be hosting a boy named “Alejandro” (his alias) to stay with them for three weeks. He’s originally from Colombia, a country in South America. I had the blessing of meeting him.

Alan and Clarissa invited my family to join them on a trip to a Reading Phillies game. If you don’t know, baseball is a popular sport in the Caribbean and South American countries. Waiting outside FirstEnergy Stadium, I noticed their familiar faces and a brand new one. With a baseball glove on one hand and the other on Clarissa’s, I figured that he must be Alejandro. He greeted me first with, “Nice to meet you,” and it surprised me that he knew some English. He spoke it well and I even have trouble with my own vernacular. Throughout the evening, I noticed he was smiling and happy to be here on American soil. Even though I know barely any Spanish from my previous classes, I was able to pick out a few phases and terms he and my cousins used. As soon as the game was over and we went our separate ways, I told my mother, “We have to help them adopt him.”

“Aljejandro” waits his turn during a game of mini golf at Heisler’s Cloverleaf Dairy near Tamaqua, Pa. After playing for awhile, he began walking ahead to the next hold to practice while waiting for the rest of the group to finish their turns. (Photo by Alan M. Murray)

About a week later, Alan, Clarissa and Alejandro invited us to join them for dinner and mini golf at Heisler’s Cloverleaf Dairy, an ice cream bar near Tamaqua, Pa. He grasped every moment and he really just wanted to stay. He didn’t care if his ball went in the hole after seven strokes or one – he just wanted to play. After he scored, he would often venture on to the next hole to practice before the rest of us caught up. I felt bad that he would have to leave in only a couple of short days.

Now you’re probably wondering why I started with “Count your blessings.” I wanted to emphasize that many of us have it lucky when it comes to life. We have loving parents, family to comfort us, and close friends super glued to our sides. But sometimes we don’t realize the struggles that others face. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to abuse, poverty, and children without homes. Alan and Clarissa, however, saw a boy that needed a home and learning opportunities and they instantly fell in love with him. Now, they’re trying to raise enough donations to bring Alejandro home where he belongs. Overseas adoption costs are hefty and the process is grueling. Family isn’t just born into your blood line, you create family.

So please consider donating. Every penny counts for giving “Alejandro” the blessing of a loving family.