Meet Dieudonne

Yeah, we didn’t know how to pronounce it either, and if we’d tried, we’d been waaaay off. In February 2021, a 4-year-old little boy from Africa came to live with us while he received medical treatment at the St. Louis Shriners Hospital. This is what happened.

My Host Child is Stealing My Son’s Girlfriend

My older son, Joey, is 19, a soon-to-be sophomore studying food science at the University of Missouri, and about to lose his girlfriend to a 4-year-old boy from Africa. Divinity is a great young woman. She and Joey have been together since October 2019. And D thinks she’s his. It started out innocently enough. Div […]

Wait. He’s Going Home … in July?

D loves airplanes. “Avion! Avion!” he screams whenever he sees, hears or thinks he sees or hears one. His favorite toys are airplanes. He asks me to put videos of airplanes from YouTube on the TV. He talks constantly about airplanes. To the best of our knowledge, he’s taken exactly one airplane trip in his […]

The Truth Beyond ‘All You Need to Do Is Buy Food’

To be sure: We did not go into this whole host-parenting thing blind. To be equally sure: There is a big difference between having sight and 20/20 vision. When I researched and wrote the article “Rewriting Their Stories,” I literally took notes on what being a host parent was like from someone who was actively […]

What Exactly Is This Kid’s Name?

Dieudonne’ is French for “Gift from God,” and he is. That doesn’t mean, though, that deciphering how to actually say his name is something God made easy for this native English-speaker whose foreign language acumen amounts to a decent grasp of Spanish and just enough Italian to help me get through an amazing vacation without […]

Becoming Brothers

The news that we were going to be welcoming a child into our home did not exactly go over well with the two who have been around for awhile. I’m not sure what my wife, Carla, and I expected when we sat our boys down for a Family Meeting to tell them a host child […]

My Pickiest Eater (And Why I’m Better Than Bono)

The worst line in the history of music, I contend, comes from the 1984 Band Aid song “Do They Know It’s Christmas Time?” that road the coattails of “We Are The World” to shine a do-good spotlight on African famine. Now, before we continue, let’s answer the song’s question: No, the majority of Africans don’t […]

Into This Crazy Life, We Bring an African Child

Dieudonne became a part of our household amidst chaos, grief and weariness. Objectively speaking, it wasn’t a good time for us to welcome a 4-year-old with medical issues who didn’t speak a word of English. Of course, waiting for a “good time” to tackle that challenge is much like saying, “We’ll have kids when we’re […]

Good Storytellers are Changed by Their Stories

Early this morning, as snow fell softly in the pre-dawn darkness outside and my family slept upstairs, I had a 45-minute conversation with a little boy who couldn’t understand a word I said and who said about only two words I was able to pick up — one of which led me to give him […]

The Boy Scouts are wrong: Preparation is overrated

Back in college at good old Drake University (JO 92… T-Ders will understand), I had some pretty fantastic journalism professors. There was, of course, the legendary Bob-Woodward-Not-That-Bob-Woodward, who, though he worked in Washington, D.C., during the Watergate era, did not, in fact, do any of the reporting that brought down a president. More important to […]

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