Rick took Bewoket in and discovered that it wasn't a terrible sacrifice to give up his solitary way of life. He started taking in other sick boys and eventually officially adopted five kids—the limit in Ethiopia—the first two because they needed surgery, which he couldn't afford. As part of his family, they were covered under his family health insurance plan. Until then, Rick was pretty much a loner, accustomed to living an uncharted life in which he had few obligations and could do whatever he wanted when he wanted. Except for a short stint on the wrestling team when he was in junior high school, he was never a team player; in high school and college he went in for individual sports like swimming and running—but never on a team. When he traveled, he traveled mostly alone. So he weighed very carefully what it would mean to make the life-changing commitment to bring children into his life.
"I had serious qualms," he said, "but I thought about it for five days before I realized that God was sending me a message: 'The Almighty is offering you a chance to help these boys. Don't say no.' "
Once he'd taken in Bewoket and then Dejene and Semegnew, the two boys who needed surgery, it was just a small step to bringing in the others—who now number twenty. The kids come from various parts of the country; they are Muslim and Orthodox Christian living in the home of an Orthodox Jew who encourages them to follow their own faiths and has no interest in converting them. He doesn't even want to make them into vegetarians, although no meat is served in his house as a way to keep it kosher.
One evening, in a rare moment when the house was quiet, Rick suddenly got it into his head to ask the boys a question: "Hey, are we a family?"
Nobody had considered this. It's sort of like in Fiddler on the Roof, when Tevye asks his wife, "Do you love me?"
The kids looked around, then nodded. "Yeah, we're a family," they agreed.
"And are we happy?" Rick asked. "Yeah, we're happy," they said. Dejene was the youngest at the time. "There's only two problems."
Uh-oh, Rick said to himself. "Dejene, what's the worst problem?"
He looked up and said, "Farts."
"And number two?" Rick asked.
Rick pointed out that as a family unit, we're a lot happier than most families he knows in America.
It's hardly a "family" in the traditional sense, but these days there are more varieties of family than ever before. If the test of family is the care and affection one member feels for another, this one passes the test and might well be "happier than most."