A Christmas story: Raising someone else’s children – Terry Pluto’s Faith & You

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Let’s start with three stories:

Suddenly a mother of three

Linda (not her name) recently told me this story.

She has four children. Three are doing very well. The fourth has had drug problems for most of her life.

The daughter has been in and out of prison and rehabilitation centers. She also has three teenage children.

Linda caught them. Her other children sometimes help, but Linda is suddenly a mother again… at 60 years old. She has two jobs.

The hardest part is when the children’s mother reappears in their lives, disrupts everything, and then runs off. Her daughter gets angry when Linda sometimes throws her away because of her behavior.

“I pray for patience,” she said. “I pray for wisdom. I’m worried about the kids… It’s just hard.”


Father Walt Jenne (St. Helen Catholic Church in Newbury) told me this story from several years ago.

He ended a funeral mass. A girl of about five asked him, “Why did Mama have to die?”

Jenne paused, searching for the right words.

“She was very sick,” he said. “It is very sad.”

The real story was that the mother had died with a needle in her arm. She had left behind “four or five children.” She had them with several men.”

The family was dividing the children and trying to find relatives to take them in – and avoid foster homes.

“This is happening more than we know,” Jenne said. “Mother dies of cancer. Dad dies in an accident. Grandparents and others intervene. It’s remarkable what people do, how they sacrifice themselves.”


Joe was engaged to be married. The couple’s families were delighted with it. They had planned a big wedding, many friends and relatives were looking forward to it.

Then the bride turned out to be pregnant. She and Joe hadn’t had sex.

This happened a long time ago. It was a scandal in their small town. Being pregnant before marriage was considered a disgrace, a great shame for both families.

In this culture, an engagement was a formal written agreement between two families. It was a business deal.

Joe’s friends told him to dump her. Joe was ready…


The first two stories are from modern times. The story of Joe is the story of Joseph from the Bible from Matthew 1:18-24.

Mary told Joseph the story of how she “was found to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit.”

Joseph could have put on a show of shaming Mary in front of the city (even having her stoned to death). But he planned to quietly break off the engagement.

An angel comes to Joseph in a dream and tells him to take Mary as his wife “because that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son. You must call him Jesus, because he will save people from their sins.”

You can read the report in Matthew. There are no direct quotes attributed to Joseph. The Bible explains, “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him…”

As Pastor Chuck Myricks (Akron’s Arlington Church of God) said, “Joseph’s voice was the loudest voice in the Bible that has never been heard… He is proof of how actions speak louder than words.”

Given the culture of the time, Mary and Joseph had to be emotionally and spiritually strong to handle all the criticism.

Arlington Church of God Pastor Chuck Myricks said, “Joseph was the loudest voice never heard in the Bible.”


As Linda told me, “I raised my kids. They’re up and out. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m doing this again.”

Many in that situation have the same thoughts. They adhere to the Medicare age, but there are young people in the house. Children from the age of internet and mobile phones.

Jenne spoke of how taking care of children often becomes ‘very complex and emotionally draining’. The children usually miss their mothers and fathers. They may feel rejected. The parents sometimes feel guilty, show up for a while – but leave again.

That could make the situation worse.

“Joseph believed Mary’s child belonged to God,” Myricks said. “He took on the role of the father because God commanded him to do so. And it gave him the strength to do it.”

Think of all foster parents. Think of the relatives and friends of families who have taken in children. Think of someone like Joseph or Linda, someone who got up and got into the family mess too.

These people have doubts and fears. Are they doing the right thing? Are they raising the children properly? Will they live long enough and stay healthy enough to get the job done?

If you can, help them financially, with money and/or gift cards. Or offer to help with babysitting. Call and support them. It’s Christmas time. Don’t forget them.


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