Holiday Lessons from a Former Foster Youth: Families Don’t Have to Be Bound by Blood

Deitrick cooking some breakfast before heading out to climb Mt. Shasta with a group of fellow foster youth and adult supporters. Photo: Fostering Media Connections

Everyone always asks me what the holidays mean to me. 

To some people the holidays are all about gifts and food. To some people the holidays are about giving and receiving. For me the holidays are about spreading love and joy to the people who don’t have anyone to return home to or receive love from, because I know how important that is.

When I was growing up, I believed that the holidays were always against me. I never grew up in a home with love that was shown every day, unless you can call getting love from the whiplash of a sizzling belt across my back. My family and I never really could see eye to eye when it came to anything, let alone the holidays, which are tough on a lot of families. The people around me made me feel like an embarrassment, and that’s a feeling I still can’t escape.

I always thought I would never have a family who could understand and accept me for me. Yet, after several years of being around amazing, wonderful, ecstatic and mesmerizing people, I have a new vision on life. I’m a part of several organizations that work with and for young people, and these people, these organizations have taught me what it means to hold a real family into your heart and also carry them within your soul wherever you go.

Dietrick (far right) with FMC’s Elizabeth Green (center) and a fellow Questival climber. Photo: Fostering Media Connections

This year, I climbed a mountain with a group of fellow foster youth and adult supporters and made bonds with people who understood me and wanted to be around me. To say that it warmed my heart would be an understatement.

To this day, I am still beaten and torn apart every day about not only striving to have a good heart but also holding onto it throughout the holidays. Though I have found family in these groups, I still spend every holiday alone, and every day I’m faced with new challenges that test my strength to hold onto the love I carry and hold within my heart and soul.

But over the years of answering the question of what the holidays mean to me, I’ve learned several things. First, I learned to never give up spreading love to the people around me, and to look at one person leaving my life as leaving the door open and making space for two people to come into it.

Second, I learned that the holidays are a time to regenerate your love at its core to spread it even further after the day is over.

Finally, the last but most important thing that I learned through all of my mentors, friends and organizations is that family isn’t always bound by blood, but family is and always will be forever.

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