The stylish, strong-willed mom portrayed in The Blind Side tells Working Mother about adopting Michael Oher and her new book on making a difference.
By Maricar Santos
Your new new e-book, Making It Happen, is out just in time for National Adoption Awareness Month. What inspired you to write it?
I wanted everyone to realize that yes—adopting a 6′ 6″ 350 pound African-American young man is a wonderful thing. [Her adopted son is Michael Oher, formerly a homeless teen, who is currently left tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.] If you have the resources and ability to do that, you should. There are 400,000-plus kids in foster care waiting to be adopted. But there are other things you can do as well to make a difference. My new book tells you how you can be a giver. It talks about really turning around and realizing that the view behind you is a whole lot different from the view in front of you.
Why should we place giving back to our communities at the top of our agenda?
It should be the first thing on your to-do list every day. Once you start, it’ll change you and make you a better person. Do something simple. Look at the person that’s putting groceries back in the shopping cart that can’t afford it, and say, “Hey, you know, let me pay for those couple of cans of vegetables for you, or let me get that loaf of bread. Let me treat you to that.” That will change your life.
For couples looking to adopt an older child, there’s a lot of concern about transitioning the child into the family. What is your advice to them?
Love ’em, love ’em, love ’em—because some of these kids have never been truly loved before. And you need to realize that they have got history, and they’re not going to be exactly who you want them to be. It may be a risk to take an older child into your home, but it’s the greatest reward you will ever receive. You have got to build the trust. And you have to build a relationship. You’re not going to have it overnight.
You received a lot of criticism for adopting outside of your race. What did it mean to you to be able to adopt Michael Oher and change his life, despite the negativity of others?
We didn’t let that bother us. We’ve had Michael for more than 11 years. We hear the comments. We get the looks. You just have to ignore them. If we would all ignore them and not give them attention, then they probably wouldn’t do or say the things that they do. In our world, families don’t have to match. We’re all created equally, and we all have worth. And we should be treated as such.
What message would you like to leave our readers about National Adoption Awareness Month?
There are wonderful kids that need families. We don’t believe there are any unwanted kids—we just believe there are unfound families. This is a great time to say, “Hey, maybe I can do that,” or, “Maybe I know someone great that can adopt.” Michael loves me unconditionally, and it’s a beautiful, wonderful love. And there are so many people missing out on it, that I’d love for them to be able to experience it. So you know, turn around and get out of your comfort zone a little bit. Realize there is a life and a world outside of what you know, and it may impact your life in a very positive way.