Dear Dr. Laura,
I have an 8-year-old cousin who I will call E. E was born to a drug-addicted son of a drug addict and his girlfriend who was a drug-addicted daughter of a drug addict. While he was an infant, his parents both went to prison and he was left in the care of his maternal grandmother whose boyfriend was a convicted (conviction then overturned) sex offender.
When he was around 2, he went to live with my grandmother. My grandmother is an amazing woman who was married with three kids under four by the time she was twenty. I have never met a stronger woman. When he went to live with her, he would sit in his high-chair and eat, and not even a crumb would hit the floor. He ate every last bit of food put in front of him. One night when he woke up in the middle of the night, my grandmother went to his crib to pick him up and he was cowering in the corner.
I am sure it will not surprise you to hear that E has some serious problems. He is emotionally disturbed and has some minor attachment disorder. When his behavior became too much for his regular public school to handle, he was placed in a school for emotionally disturbed children and has thrived in the very structured environment that they provide.
The amazing thing about E, is that he is one of the sweetest children I have ever met. When he is near babies, he protects them, loves them, holds them, and plays with them. He is so sweet and gentle. It's beautiful to watch. He selflessly shares with them and with everyone around him. At his school he earns points for behavior that he can then trade in at a school store. For Christmas, he traded in all of his points for stuffed animals for two of his cousins, 3 and 5-year-old girls. He is starting to hug voluntarily, to cuddle and sing and take care of his things. He is so good with animals and he is so giving. I can only imagine how he would have turned out, in different early circumstances, but he is a wonderful child and is going to be an amazing man some day.
I cannot decide which defines goodness more, this child who is so sweet and caring, in-spite of such a terrible start; my grandmother who has loved this child into who he is today; or the power of the love that our family has created around him. He won't be defined by the evil that influenced his first two years. He has a chance at a good life, and whether it's because of his innate character, the love around him, or a miracle granted by God, E. is the one entity which defines goodness in my life.
Thank you for all you do,