Foster Father


Think of your brethren like unto yourselves (Jacob 2:17).

Foster Father

Jason dipped a rag into the quart of dark walnut stain and slid it across the unfinished top of his new oak desk. The wood jumped to life, the grain standing out like a picture coming into focus.

“That looks great!” Jason’s foster father, Jim Spence, was standing in the garage doorway, beaming. “I’m glad we could finally get you a desk of your own.”

Before Jason had come to live with Jim and Anna Spence, he’d been in and out of foster homes all his life. He’d never felt wanted—until now.

And until now, Jason had never called any of his foster parents Mom and Dad. The next day was Father’s Day, and Jason wanted to give Dad something special.

After he finished the desk, Jason washed up and changed his clothes. As he was tucking in his shirt, Dad and Mom knocked at the door and came in. Their faces looked serious.

“We just got a call from the welfare people,” Dad said. “They want us to take another boy, a ten year old. His name’s Rob. After his mother died last year, he had several scrapes with the law and has been in three foster homes. He can’t seem to adjust. You know the story.”

A sick feeling churned in Jason’s stomach. He knew the story all right. It was like his own. Every time he’d gotten into trouble, he’d been moved to another foster home. Nobody really cared. Until the Spences! If another kid comes, they won’t have time for me, Jason thought. Maybe they’ll even like him better!

He stared at the floor, unable to say anything.

“It will be like having a younger brother. You can play baseball with him and teach him your pickoff move to first base,” Dad said.

“I don’t want a brother,” Jason croaked, his voice a whisper. “Why can’t things stay the way they are?”

Mom sighed and looked hurt. “This boy needs our help—Jim’s, yours, and mine. We’re counting on you.”

Dad glanced at his watch.

“He’ll be here in a little while. We’d like your help—will you at least pray about it?”

Without answering, Jason pushed past them and headed for the front door.

“Where are you off to?” Mom asked.

Jason grunted something and left. He didn’t know where he was going, or even if he was coming back. He needed to figure things out. He started running and found himself heading toward town.

He passed people and didn’t see them. Someone said hello, but Jason didn’t notice who it was. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that he’d finally found a caring home, and now some new kid was going to ruin it.

Soon he was on the other side of town. It reminded him of places that he’d lived in before. He could tell that the people who lived here had a hard time making enough money to live on, and a lot of the kids here probably learned to grow up hating others.

He passed a flashing video arcade. Both younger kids and teenagers drifted in and out, drinking sodas, leaning against the brick walls, and wandering back inside again. Some of them stared at him and laughed. Jason felt out of place—he’d changed a lot since the Spences had taken him in.

He’d been pretty hostile toward Anna and Jim at first. But it had been impossible to not warm up to them. Dad had found out that Jason played baseball and gotten him into Little League the very first week he was with them. Then he and Mom had come to almost every game. And could they yell! It made Jason feel as if he really were their son.

“Why can’t things stay like that?” Jason thought aloud. “Why’d some new kid have to show up and spoil it?”

As he wandered past a drugstore, he thought of Father’s Day cards. It made a lump grow in his throat. He’d really looked forward to buying one this year.

Just then, three boys spilled out the store’s door and burst into laughter.

“That guy’s so dumb,” one boy said.

“He has an IQ below freezing,” another boy chortled. He held up three packages of bubble gum. “Look what I swiped from right under his nose!”

They ran off with no idea as to where they were headed. But Jason knew. He knew all too well. And if it hadn’t been for Jim Spence, he himself might be headed for a juvenile detention center by now.

Who’s going to help these kids? he prayed silently.

Then he asked himself, Who’s going to help Rob?

Jason felt selfish for wanting all his foster parents’ love for himself when so many kids needed to be loved.

He knew that the Spences loved him. Everything they did for him proved that. Like buying him a desk. They’d saved for quite a while to be able to get it. And all he’d done to show his thanks was to run away!

He hurried into the drugstore and bought a Father’s Day card—the first one he’d ever bought—then hurried home. He still didn’t know what to give Dad for Father’s Day, but he was going home, and that was all that seemed to matter.

He thought of the kids back at the store, ripping off other people and not knowing that they were really ripping off their own happiness. Jason would never have known that if it hadn’t been for Dad. The world needed more fathers like him.

Suddenly he knew what to give him for Father’s Day.

Jason tried to act cool as he strode up the walk and into the house, but it wasn’t easy. He was so glad to be home again! After apologizing to his worried foster parents, he met Rob, a boy with long blond hair, who was leaning against the door casing, trying to look tough.

Jason smiled at Dad and handed him the card, adding, “I know this is a day early, but it’s the right time to give it to you. And there’s something else I want to give you, Dad.” He tilted his head slightly in Rob’s direction. “I want to help.”

Dad gave him a bear hug that would have bruised another bear! “Thanks, Jason.”

Smiling proudly, Mom suggested, “Why don’t you and Rob take a walk and get acquainted while we fix supper.”

“Want to?” Jason asked.

Rob shrugged. “Where?”

Jason thought, then said, “The unfinished-furniture store.”

Rob looked at him as if he’d just jumped off a spaceship.

Jason had to laugh. “We can look at the desks,” he explained. He jerked his head toward the kitchen. “They’re big on desks.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh