There’s something powerful about making a choice. Choosing a spouse; choosing a place to live; choosing a job—choices are empowering acts of free will. But choosing also requires commitment. You have to keep choosing what you’ve already chosen, over and over again, because you always have the option to make a different choice.
Isabel, a mom we met in the Dominican Republic, knows a lot about choosing. She wasn’t prepared for the choice set before her and certainly didn’t have everything she needed to feel good about her decision, but she chose then what she’s chosen every day since: to do what makes a difference, not what makes sense.
Like most unexpected, life-changing moments, this one presented itself on a normal day. Isabel’s daughter, Carmen, called her and asked her to come home right away. Isabel was concerned, thinking that maybe Carmen was hurt or something was wrong, but when she arrived home she found Carmen, healthy and safe, with a baby she had never seen before.
When I saw this baby, I said to Carmen, ‘What is this?’ And then, “They gave this baby to me!” – Isabel
Carmen had been doing homework with a friend after school when the friend revealed that she had a baby and wanted to give her away. Carmen, who was 13 at the time, had grown up watching her mom care for kids in their neighborhood as if they were her own. She knew her mother was a woman who found great joy in giving to children and loving them well, so when she saw a baby in need of a home, she instinctively replied, “My mom loves kids. She will take her.”
Isabel didn’t have a husband. She barely had enough resources to take care of Carmen and herself. She didn’t have any of the practical things that would make this decision any easier, but she didn’t hesitate.
She chose Darlin, the baby who needed a home.
Darlin didn’t arrive on Isabel’s doorstep as a healthy baby. She was naked, covered in rashes, and dehydrated. Isabel rushed her to the hospital where she stayed for several weeks. Isabel chose to keep coming back to the hospital, day after day. Darlin grew stronger and healthier. But only a few months later, a new problem emerged.
So imagine after that time—all my strength and all my efforts I was putting into helping this girl—by the time she was 9 months old, I noticed something was different. One of her feet could not completely rest on the floor. The whole side was facing to the other side. It was a deformity of the hip and the leg.
I took her back to the hospital. The doctors said they need her to be at least one year and able to walk to make a better diagnosis. So, when she was finally walking, I came back to the hospital. And I saw this problem was increasing and it was larger and larger as the months went by.
Isabel quickly learned she didn’t have many options. Darlin needed surgery, but Isabel couldn’t afford surgery. A doctor at another hospital recommended she try the CURE Hospital in Santo Domingo.
I saw at CURE what I did not see at other hospitals. The doctor said even if you don’t have the money, we will do the surgery for you and the operation was scheduled.
I feel that in this country a person who doesn’t have resources, they are a nobody. Too many people have seen that the doors are closed when they have difficulties. And I know that if CURE wouldn’t have been here in this country, Darlin never would have had surgery.
Isabel was willing to sacrifice time, resources, and even her own physical strength to care for Darlin after her surgery. Isabel lives near the top of a very tall, very steep hill. When Darlin was in casts after surgery, she had to be carried up and down the hill countless times. Isabel was the one who carried her. Time and time again, Isabel chose Darlin and loved her well. And finally, after years of waiting and working, her dreams for Darlin became a reality.
When they removed the casts, they brought her in a wheelchair. They were in the consultation room, and the doctor said, ‘Okay, Darlin. Please walk to me.’ And she got up and she walked! He grabbed her and everybody was thrilled. She just walked! I was crying and saying, ‘Thank You, Lord!’
I gave a hug to the doctor and the doctor hugged me back and said, ‘Here you have your girl, completely healed.’
‘You are a courageous woman,’ he said. Everybody told me, ‘You are a courageous mom.’
Love makes us courageous. Love carries us, and it gives us the strength to carry each other—sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally. There are lots of different choices we get to make every day, but no choice quite like choosing to love each other well.