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Having been involved in the foster care world all my life, I've experienced, and seen many others experience, the, "I have no one"

dilemma. I have experienced the feeling of having no family, having no one to help me when something goes wrong, having no one who'll loan me the money if a flat tire threatens my ability to get to work, having no place to stay, and having no one who'll share their food when I haven't eaten for days.

Having no one is beyond "lonely." The word "lonely" doesn't cover it. It's more of a profound "alone-ness" when you are so alone in the world that if you were seriously injured, and no one would find you for days.

The good news is that having no family doesn't have to be a life-long predicament. It's a temporary situation because you can build your own family.

Of course, we're all familiar with the traditional family-building of marriage and of adoption. But there are other methods of building your own "customized" family that can lead to a healthy safety net of mutual respect, concern, and caring that will enrich your life in ways that you may not think possible.

Here’s an illustration of how people can create their own families.

Imagine a single mom raising a special needs child by herself with no financial support and no family. She homeschools because of painful experiences in public school. She gets no break, has no help, and the few friends she had have fallen away, because their lives are so different from hers. Her child doesn't do well in public, so she can't take her out with her. She physically couldn't manage it anyway because her son weighs over 180 pounds, can’t walk, and wears a diaper. She physically cannot lift him in and out of her little, very old car. She puts on a brave face for him every day, as she tries to protect him from the drug dealers and gang members in the run down apartment complex which is the best she can afford to rent. She cries almost every day. There seems to be no end to all this. And then there's the question that looms over her... who will take care of her son when she no longer can? After years of this, it takes all of her remaining optimism to resolve to think of that another day. One day at a time is how she survives.

Now consider the 70-something woman in the same apartment complex who has no husband and never had children. Her career was her life, that is, until the corporation she served for years downsized and eliminated her position. She spent her severance and all her retirement savings to pay for the very costly care for her mother who didn't even know who she was after Alzheimer's destroyed her. This responsible, successful executive lost her home, couldn't maintain her lifestyle, and now barely gets by in a place she never thought she'd be. She wishes she had someone to care for who would care about her too.

Neither one of these women can "fix" everything for the other. But these two ladies can connect and become for each other the person who calls to make sure you made it home okay. The woman who wishes she had someone to care for could “spiritually adopt" the young mom and her sons, and play the role of an aunt or grandma in a way that enriches the lives of everyone involved. The young mom could have someone to listen to her concerns and to celebrate little victories, and to simply know that she is not completely alone. These two ladies can become family for each other.

This kind of family building requires no paperwork, no social worker, no judge, and no approval from any outside source. It simply requires two people who are willing to extend kindness to one another.

Finding the right people with whom to connect and trust can take time and effort, but the lifelong relationships are worth it.

Rhonda Sciortino went from being profoundly alone to being a part of a big Italian family when she married Nick Sciortino in 1991. She says that next to her decision to join the family of Jesus, that was the best decision of her life.

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