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In this story from January 1962, the Green Acres star shares how he turned the process of adopting a child over to the Lord.
Someday, Maria, someone is going to say a silly thing to you. “Maria,” he’ll say, and he’ll be very solemn, “you must always be grateful to Mr. Albert for choosing you out of all those children.”
And the trouble is, Maria, that you just might believe him. Because you are beautiful, because I adore you, because your hair is long and your eyes enormous, because you are seven years old and have me completely wrapped around your finger, you might actually believe that I stepped into that orphanage, looked around at all the children, and selected you.
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But I didn’t, Maria. I wasn’t the one who chose you at all.
It was three years ago that I had dinner in Paris with Art Buchwald. It was the first time I’d been away from Margo and young Edward and I missed them terribly. Only one thing cast a shadow when I thought of my family: there wasn’t enough of it!
Margo and I never dreamed of having just one child. After Edward’s birth, when no brothers or sisters came, we placed our name with adoption agencies all over the country. Years went by, but no child.
That evening in Paris I was sounding off to Art on the slow pace of adoption. He lay down his fork. “We have three adopted kids,” he said, “and we didn’t wait years and years to get them. We found one in England, one in France, and one in Spain–and you couldn’t ask for finer youngsters.”
He leaned across the table. “It would break your heart to see some of those orphanages. Why, we saw one in Spain that had over 2,000 children.”
It was one of those strange moments when everything seems to make sense: even the language. Margo was born in Mexico and speaks Spanish fluently. I went to the telephone and talked to her in California. The next day I was bound for Madrid and the orphanage with 2,000 children.
Once on the plane, the enormity of what I was doing swept over me. How was I going to pick the right child from 2,000?
Psychiatry, I thought. I’d pick a child that looked healthy and bright and then take him to a psychiatrist for tests. I lowered the seat-back, I was tired.
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But sleep wouldn’t come. Suddenly I realized that psychiatry could not really define the special magic that makes one person belong with another.
I remembered what I’d long ago learned, that the only valid position for viewing a decision is eternity, that the only One who sees from there is God. I’d asked Him to guide me in lesser matters, why not in this one?
Did I really have more confidence in myself than in Him? The children in the orphanage were His children, just as Margo, and Edward, and I were. He knew which one belonged with us.
But how would I know? How would I be shown His choice for our family? As soon as I asked the question I knew the answer too: God’s choice would be the first child I saw.
There in the plane seat I bowed my head. “Lord,” I said, “I’ll take that first child.”
This time, I got to sleep.
Early next morning I was sitting in the office of the director of the great gray-walled orphanage.
“And what kind of child do you have in mind?” he asked in English.
“I would not be so impertinent as to say,” I told him.
The director stared at me, then at the paper he’d been writing on. “You have one son, age seven. So I suppose you would like a girl?”
“A girl would be fine.”
The director scrutinized me for a moment. Abruptly he picked up the phone and spoke a few words in Spanish. I wondered if he heard my heart pounding as we waited.