Father’s Day morning I watched Outside the Lines on ESPN. It told about Ernie Johnson – Inside the NBA host with Shack, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith – who with wife Cheryl have 6 kids. Their first 2 were biological and healthy, but they then decided to adopt. From Ernie’s new book comes this excerpt” 
Cheryl left for Romania on May 16, 1991. She made her first visit to an orphanage in a village outside Bucharest. On one of those rare occasions when we were able to secure a phone line, Cheryl detailed that visit for me. As she waited in the lobby, a nurse brought out a child. It was a boy, not quite 3 years old. He had been abandoned in a park at birth. He could not walk. He could not speak. On the other end of the phone, my wife was having trouble speaking. She was in tears.
"Hon, I met this little boy today. The first child I saw. The nurse told me, ‘Do not take. Boy is no good.' Ern, he has so many issues, he’s so much more than we said we could handle, but I don’t know if I can go the rest of my life wondering what happened to him."
Her words hung there, demanding a response, for 10 seconds, with neither of us speaking. Sometimes you are captured, even on a scratchy telephone line halfway around the world, not by the words you’re hearing but by how they are spoken. Those words were coming from some inner recess of Cheryl’s heart, someplace not easily accessed, some place for which only an abandoned, hopeless Romanian orphan had the key. Suddenly, all the things we had talked about and all the things we had written in the required adoption paperwork about the severity of a child’s condition we were willing to take on became secondary.
"Then bring him home." 
            The descriptions of the boy’s condition are worse than you can imagine. One foot turned 90 degrees, unable to chew because he’d never had solid food, unable to speak and eventually diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy!
            Ernie explains the reaction from friends to that diagnosis was way too common, something like this:
"I’m so sorry to hear about Michael.  I guess if you guys had known he had muscular dystrophy, you wouldn’t have adopted him."
Nothing could have been further from the truth. In as understanding a tone as I could muster, I would explain that we had adopted Michael not with an eye on what he would become, but for who he was – a neglected, forgotten child who deserved another chance.
            Wow! Father’s Day morning and I’m coming off a wonderful time with my grandkids and after hearing from my healthy sons it hit home how blessed my family is and how amazing people like Ernie and Cheryl Johnson are.
My tears wouldn’t stop and my respect and admiration for parents who deal with kids like Michael skyrocketed. God bless all parents and especially those who deal with children with special needs.
I’m a very lucky “Papa” Steve Sauder.


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