A Meeting That Changed My Life

Exactly one year ago, I had the distinct opportunity of meeting a woman whose life work was dedicated to helping orphans and abandoned children – a work that has had a direct impact on my life. She has always put the needs of others ahead of her own and is such an inspiration. There were probably times when she struggled to keep going and was under so much pressure that it would have been easier to quit and do something else. She, of course, did not quit, but continued building an organization that has helped thousands of children around the world. Her name is Molly Holt.

IMG_8204Last year, when we were visiting Korea, we set up a time to meet with Molly, to visit her home, and see Holt Ilsan Center. We toured the facilities and sat down for tea with Molly in her living room. She treated us like old friends, even though this was the first time I had ever met her. I distinctly remember her asking me how life was going, and my answer was, “It’s great!  I’m married to an adoptee and got to meet her birth family.  I have a great career and great family.” She talked about adoptees who have contacted her as adults, angry that they were placed for adoption and that they were sent away from Korea.  Many of them had became estranged from the families who adopted them and now are dealing with the pain associated with these broken relationships.  Her response was that she was deeply sorry for them, but that she also used to bury children every day and each time it broke her heart. She wanted these unwanted children placed with some family just so they could survive.

IMG_8206I have spent the last year thinking about the fact that I could have ended up rejected, not adopted, and now living in Korea as an adult. What kind of job would I be doing? Would I have ever had the opportunity to play violin and experience music? Molly did a great job in making me realize just how fortunate I am to be alive. After we left her home, we climbed a set of stairs behind her home and came across two tombstones.They were the graves of her parents, Harry and Bertha Holt, who had originally started Holt International. I paid my respects, and the gratefulness I felt that day towards the Holt family was beyond words.

We finished the day watching a Christmas program that was performed by the children living at the Holt Ilsan Center.  Many of the children had special needs and, at that point, I had not mentally prepared myself for all the emotions that I began to feel. I do not even think I shared them with Whitney at that time because I was so overwhelmed. I kept thinking of a phrase that I had read earlier that day, by Harry Holt: “Every child deserves a home of his own.” Each one of these children deserves a home and a family and many of them will never receive that precious gift. I am so thankful for Holt taking in these children and caring for them when their birth parents and families could not. I was an orphan just like these children and Holt took me in and placed me with a foster mother before being adopted. My heart broke for each one of these orphans because I want them to experience love from a parent.

I understand Harry and Bertha created Holt International because their hearts were heavy and broken for all the orphans that surrounded them. Many times, we get caught up in all the negativity that surrounds us. Molly is living proof that there is still good in this world and people that want to spread love, not hate, and desire for this world to truly be a better place.

IMG_7678I do not know if I will ever meet my birth family or if I’ll ever start a search. I do know that because of Molly and the Holt family, I have been given a second chance at a great life. After 30 years, it was such a privilege to meet Molly in her home, in a country that I left as an infant.  It felt almost like an excerpt from a Hallmark movie, but this was real life.  I am a product of her life’s work. and my desire is that when she is gone (and even when I’m gone), that this work continues and that children around the world can benefit.  I wanted Molly to know just how much I appreciate her, and having the opportunity to give her a hug and whisper in her ear, “Thank you,” was priceless. She not only changed my life, but gave me a second chance at life. As an adult, I can see that now and am eternally grateful. Holt International was created with the idea that every child deserves a home and I’ll never forget where I came from.

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One thought on “A Meeting That Changed My Life

  1. Dear Lee,

    Thank you for the beautiful post. I work as a 1:1 aide with an adopted youngster and search for articles that touch upon his unique circumstances. As it focuses on gratitude, it is uplifting to read your post. Currently our society encourages us to look upon ourselves as victims and I see that reflected in some of the articles I read. As the victim mindset harbors great dissatisfaction to individuals and division to their relationships, it concerns me. Like Miss Holt, I am greatly sorry for those who are struggling and pray that they will find peace. Aside from teaching my student the basics of his faith, I want him to understand how deeply he is loved, and shelter him from the angst of seeing himself as a victim. This is a complex issue and I appreciate your contribution to the conversation.


    p.s. I have the great pleasure of knowing Whitney and her parents. Whitney volunteered in my special education classroom many years ago. She was a wonderful helper and friend to my students. I wish both of you all the success in the world as you continue your journey together.


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