DY: In Just a Few Words (#101)
I had NO clue I was in so far over my head.
Hope springs eternal. So does help.
A work colleague and his late wife devoted their lives to adopting and fostering children. They truly made the World a better place.
Thus it was that, one day in the 1970s, my associate stuck his head into my office and said, I hear you’re going to be in Phoenix next week on business. We have a baby coming into Portland from Vietnam. As long as you’re in the area, I was hoping you could swing by Portland at the end of your trip and bring her back to Cleveland.
I gulped. I gulped again. Then I said, Yes. Portland isn’t exactly a suburb of Phoenix. It would be a 1,300 mile detour. But, I had never been to Oregon before and needed to check it off my bucket list. I arrived in Portland mid-afternoon to hear this announcement: Paging Mr. Davis Young. Please come to the United Counter. I did and found a message. There was a change of plans. The baby would be coming into Seattle, not Portland. What’s another 175 miles? That airport stop in Portland is the extent of my time in Oregon to this day.
Duty called, so I was on the next plane to Seattle, where I patiently waited for the rerouted plane to land. Right on time, here came a nun down the concourse with a baby in each arm and a paper bag in each hand. I can close my eyes today and still see her. We started toward each other. She said, You must be Mr. Young. Here is your baby. She was seven months old and weighed just 11 pounds. She came from an orphanage in Vietnam where nearly all of the children had died from an outbreak of measles. In the paper bag were all her worldly possessions.
Naively I asked, Would you like a receipt? She declined saying, That’s not necessary. Nobody would do this who wasn’t who they say they are. She wished me well and went on her way with the other baby, vanishing down a long concourse.
Think about this. You’re a guy in his 30s. You are a dad yourself, but the primary caregiver has always been your wife. You are 2,400 miles from home in an unfamiliar airport in charge of another family’s baby. You need help. This is when you discover there are lots of good people willing to lend a hand. And, that continued on the long overnight flight to Cleveland. I slept while a planeload of grandmothers took turns passing this baby around, making sure she was changed and fed. I remember one of them asked if the infant spoke English. Many Vietnamese babies were coming into America late in the Vietnam War and there was widespread interest in them.
We arrived in Cleveland to a boisterous welcome from the baby’s new family and friends. There were signs and cheers as one of the grandmothers handed the baby to her new family. (Being the 1970s there were no cell phones for photos or videos, and the few photos we did have are - sadly - long gone.)
I lost touch with that wonderful child years ago. Last I heard though, she was doing well. She’d be about 50 years old today. As I reflect back in time, that few hours was an amazing and enriching experience.
If a friend ever asks you to swing by Portland to pick up their baby, do it. You’ll never forget the experience, especially all the help that will come your way.
DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.
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