Who Wants a 17-Year-Old?
Aaron Greene is a 21-year-old, happy, young man who is excited about living life. He smiles, almost chuckles, after every sentence and strangely, even after he shares horrific memories. The type of memories that normally set people back in life, stunt an individual’s psyche, and ultimately bring forth a deep sense of sadness. Yet, Aaron smiles.
I question him, “Why are you so happy?”
He responds with a simple answer; “ I have a lot to be happy for.”
Aaron looks directly at the camera and starts to tell his story, but then he stops.
“Before I begin, do you mind if I say a prayer?” he asks, still smiling.
“God, please use my life experiences as a foster child to help other kids who are currently like I was. Thank you for this opportunity to share. May you use my story to glorify you. Thank you, Amen.”
He opens his eyes and looks up, “Ok, I am ready now.”
We only shoot two complete video takes of Aaron. He has no formal script. Instead he talks from the heart. He was 9 years old when he realized his mom had a drug addiction. His father was nowhere in his life. Thankfully, his grandparents took him in and raised him as their own.
The love for his grandparents is visibly picked up by the camera. I have to remind him for clarity sake to call them grandpa and grandma not dad and mom.
“For a time things were ok. My grandparents stepped up and I found a home with them. I loved my grandparents. I needed my grandparents. They were my rock, my support. They loved me, but the anger never left. I was still damaged. I was hurt. I was lost.”
Aaron’s grandmother passed away when he was 16 years old.
“She took care of me, she was the stabilizing factor in my life. At 16 years old, I found myself planning her funeral. Who else was going to do it?”
When he was 17 years old, he noticed his grandpa was starting to forget things.
“It was just me and my grandpa. He was old and was starting to forget things. I had to help him take his medication.”
Soon after, Aaron received a call from a caseworker asking him questions about what type of home he would like to live in.
Aaron explains, “My mind was spinning. I had just turned 17 years old. Who wants a 17-year-old? Who is going to take me in? I was so scared. I grew up so much in those weeks. Thankfully, I received another phone call. This time telling me that they had found a home for me with Jerry and Jenny Miles.”
I see the smile again, impossibly wider as he mentions the names of Jerry and Jenny.
“I was so nervous, but they showed me unconditional love and at the time I longed for it most. And good thing, because shortly after they became my foster parents, my grandpa passed away. But this time, things were different. I had Jerry and Jenny’s support. I could lean on them during this experience.”
Aaron has been with Jerry and Jenny Miles for four years now.
“You see, my life has totally changed. If it were not for Sunrise and my foster parents I would have followed the examples of my parents. But now, I go to church every week and sing in the choir with my foster mom. You know, I also do construction work. The other day, I put on a roof. I never would have thought I could have done that. I am going to school to be a nurse. I want to help people.”
“How has Sunrise helped you,” I ask?
He answers the question without thought.
“Sunrise has taught me how to deal with my past issues and make healthy decisions. I can stop in their office at any time and know that they are always there for me. The opportunities I have now would not have been possible without God bringing me to Sunrise. Sunrise has always believed in me.”
Like Aaron, I start to smile. Aaron was absolutely correct. He has a lot to be happy for.
Written by Jake Pelfrey, Sunrise Northern Kentucky Advancement Director.