Isabel’s Dream

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75373_168559043178035_100000718217107_407211_2685866_n.jpgMy mom used to tell me that I can always choose my friends, but I can’t choose my family. Usually this was in response to my complaint about something said ‘family’ did, but nevertheless, it is a very true statement. There is something about the love of a family that is more about commitment than any kind of biological bond. To be a part of a family is really about knowing where you belong, because once you know that, the rest is the easy stuff.Two weeks ago we were driving up the Baja coast on our way to the San Diego airport. As we were driving, we passed a forlorn looking orphanage property and Dawn said, “I wonder whatever happened to Isabel?” Oddly enough, that question started a random, yet serendipitous, chain of events that led to a family being reunited and held together.As fate would have it, the very next day, Dawn received a Facebook message from Isabel, whom she hadn’t heard from in a long time. She was telling her she was in San Diego and would like to see her. On their trip the following week, Andrew and Dawn picked Isabel up in San Diego and brought her to Vicente Guerrero, near our Hero Holiday base, where they first met.I have never met Isabel personally, but according to what Andrew has told me about her, I think that in Isabel’s world, the concept of family has meant many different things at different points in her life. When they first met, she was one of four kids in her family that were living in an orphanage in Vicente Guerrero, Baja California. Isabel was 15, Maria was 10, Veronica was 8 and Gumaro was 5. However, they weren’t all in the same orphanage – they were scattered around in different facilities, never knowing what it was like to grow up together.Recently, Isabel showed Maria a picture of their father – it was the first photo she had ever seen of him. He is a total mystery to them. From the outside, he may just seem like another face, but to them he is a link to their history, however brief and turmoiled it might be. The four children all share the same father, but they were only part of the picture: there were 14 in their family in total, spread across Mexico and the United States. Most of their family is unaware of how many siblings they actually have or where they even are.154295_168563623177577_100000718217107_407330_4800016_n.jpgSince I have heard about Isabel’s story, I have thought a lot about her mom. I don’t know what ever drove Margerite Rose to become the kind of mother that she is: addicted to drugs for many years, giving birth 14 times in 19 years and scattering her children along the way. What can make a mother turn on her own child? What kind of self hatred and pain can drive you to allowing your children to be taken away and knowing their own depths of pain and abandonment as a result? Sadly, their family’s story has become the text book story of cycles of abuse and abandonment, with many of her children following in her tormented footsteps. But Isabel is different. Something inside of her told her that the cycle ended with her, and since that day, she has never looked back.At 15, Isabel ran away from the orphanage, in the hopes of finding a better life. That hope was quickly crushed when she was promptly arrested and transported to another orphanage in Ensenada. After a brief time in that orphanage, she was transported north to Tijuana. Where she found herself made the other places look like heaven: there were 50 girls and they all had to sleep on the floor, shower at the same time and even use the same hair brush and deodorant. But hope did come in an unexpected way: the authorities were made aware that Isabel had actually been born in Vancouver, Washington and she was deported back to the US. It was the best thing that could have happened to her.Because she was orphaned, Isabel was absorbed into the American foster care system and was bounced around between four different families. Isabel ended up in San Diego through the foster care system, and tried to make a life for herself. It was here that she truly began to experience the kindness of others who cared about her. A family took her in, made her feel like she was part of a family for the first time, and surrounded her with love. That love gave her the courage to finish her education. She was the first member of her family to graduate with a high school diploma.The journey to wholeness has been difficult for Isabel. She wavered between returning to Mexico to try to collect her family or staying in the US. After graduation, she struggled to be able to get her own apartment and secure a job. But she did it. Today, Isabel works in administration for the San Diego County Foster Care. This past week when Andrew and Dawn saw her again, it was in Mexico, in the same community where they first met. Only this time they helped her find her siblings. The reunion was sweet and they all cherished their time. Isabel’s life has become a beacon of hope for her younger siblings, and they are inspired to begin to dream about what they can become as well. Now they are no longer isolated and alone – they can work together to build a future that is free from the pain they have known in the past.I have never known what it is like to know the pain of rejection that each of those 14 children have inevitably felt. I have never known what it is to have to fight for every single thing that I know I want or even need. I have never known isolation such as they have. But I have known the power of hope. I see it every day in what we do in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute). This is how hope begins, one life at a time. Before you know it, we might just all be willing to believe that we were meant for so much more and start to do something about it.LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute)’s Hero Holiday program has many different opportunities for you to join us in Mexico. You can be a part of a story like this and know the power of purpose and hope! Check out“Once you choose hope, anything is possible.” ~ Christopher Reeve

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: December 7th, 2010