Nope, not the soap, although there are times it feels that way. A friend’s post got me thinking about all “my” kids (some of whom aren’t even children) who were not born to me.

I have a very strong maternal instinct, so I played mother hen to my brothers all their lives, and did a lot of the actual raising of the youngest one. I also have children of my own, who are grown, and need Mom a lot less than they once did, though sometimes only the mother will do even now. And there are my granddaughters, whom I love to spoil. That’s ten kids under my belt, and you’d think that would be enough. Not even close.

There’s my husband’s daughters, C who I raised as my own from the ages of 12 to 18, and B who lived with us for two years, whose mother still calls asking me to talk some sense to her, when she’s being a bit of a pill. Of course, through the years I have befriended the children of friends. Several of them still call or email, and often ask for advice about things they’d rather not discuss with Mom or Dad. Mr. W. also has a heart for children, and at our family reunion nieces and nephews surrounded our table. Playing, laughing, talking, and cuddling with them is probably the biggest reason we go every year. Then there are my church children.

I met the “Bears” at my first church, three sweet but trouble little boys, whose home-life was less than wonderful. I taught them in children’s church, and many times they broke my heart with stories about a mother who loved them dearly, but because of a drinking problem allowed them to be exposed to things little boys shouldn’t even know about. We talked often about ways to keep our hearts clean in a world determined to hurt and corrupt us. I saw them a few weeks ago, they’re now young men, strong, beautiful, and with faith we could all learn from.

Another child from that first church, K, waits tables at one of the local restaurants and, though the odds were against her, will graduate early this year. She visits our church quite often, and watching her grow into a lovely young woman has been one of the joys of my life.

The children in our church now live in poverty, many of them in homes most of us wouldn’t consider fit for human habitation. Some of them are physically or mentally abused or worse.

T1 is a young woman with Down’s syndrome. She is married to M, who also has Down’s, and they have two beautiful children the State will not allow them to raise. In Texas one would go to jail for keeping an animal in the conditions in which she lives. If she had been born to educated parents, in the city, instead of a young, uneducated, single mother, in the sticks, people would describe her as a little slow. As it is, she never had a chance.

T2, a sweet little girl, who thinks my hubby is “all that and a bag of butterscotch”, has a great mom and dad. She also goes to the altar every chance she gets to pray for her daddy to join them in church.

H1’s mom wouldn’t be caught dead in a church, but doesn’t mind if her kids go. We’re glad to have them too. She’s a sweetie, and her brother though still a little distant is always respectful and kind. She was sick last week and broken hearted, because she couldn’t go.

H2 is another child who lives in deplorable conditions. With two large chows tied up in the yard, knocking on her door Sunday mornings takes a little courage, but many mornings when we arrive, we find she’s already there. She says she likes the peace and quiet. I watched her face crumble last Sunday when the Pastor was talking about how hard school can be and how cruel other children can be. All I could do was tell her, when it gets tough to remember hubby and I love her.

There are many more, and they each break my heart in their own way. Sometimes the worst part is taking them home. It can be very hard.

The Bible says, “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”  (Matthew 10:42)  But it doesn’t tell one how rewarding it is, right here on earth, to care for the little ones. I can’t even describe the incredible feeling in my heart, when “my” children are near.

They all need to know someone cares what happens to them and loves them.

I can do that.