For almost eight years now, I have been a resident of the Phoenix area – The Valley of the Sun. It seems to me like people who don’t live in Phoenix love to assure those of us who do live in Phoenix that we should be grateful “it’s a dry heat.” Well, on one particular day last August, I remember thinking those people are crazy. Summer monsoons usher in plenty of humidity here. Going outside feels like walking into a giant oven and trying to catch your breath. Unfortunately, last summer, our sliding glass door got stuck. There was zero sliding going on.  This was how I found myself in a grumpy mood, in a hot house, desperately trying to keep the kids occupied so they would not remember how miserable they were or bother the repairmen who worked for hours that day to remove the door.

After observing our family for a time while he worked, the eldest of the three repairmen commented on the number of children in our home. I mentioned adoption and foster care as having roles in building our family. One of the kids was napping, so he got a little confused at how many kids there were total and which of them we were fostering. He asked us to clarify which ones were ours. I saw my opportunity and quickly answered, “They’re all ours!” After some initial defensiveness at my response, which I have found quite common in this type of situation, this man softened. I saw it in his face, his eyes, his shoulders. Humbly, he sat down with me and began asking about our adoption journey. He put his hand to his chest and told me that when I responded about the kids all being ours, “It did something right here!”

Eventually, one of the other men called this gentleman over to help with the stuck door and I went back to hanging out with my kids. I was happy to have shared a conversation with this very kind man who genuinely seemed interested in our family and was very complimentary of my husband and me after observing our interactions that day. To have this man validate our parental effort and say what a great team he thought we made was much needed and very timely.

I silently cheered inside when full sliding function was restored to the back door and I noticed the men cleaning up to leave. My four-year-old daughter and I were putting some books away when I looked up to see my new friend approaching once again. Thoughtfully, he said, “When I first saw you, I thought you were so beautiful.” I started to do that thing where I reject a compliment because I am embarrassed by it. I was feeling anything but beautiful that day. However, his voice was sincere and gentle and I caught myself, determined to be more graceful. He continued, “But, after hearing your story, you are way beyond that.” He held his hand up above his head as if to show me that I measured high in his book. I most certainly blushed and nearly began to cry but managed to thank him for his kindness. I don’t think a “stranger” has ever said anything so sincere and sweet to me in my whole life. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for at least five minutes. By then, he was gone.  I didn’t even catch his name. I will always remember his face though, I think – the way it looked when he softened and wanted to know the story of our family.

I do know that the next time someone asks, “Which ones are yours?” I will answer the same again.

“They are all ours.”

Have you ever been asked, “Are they all yours?” or “Which ones are yours?” How did you respond?