I often joke that Dawit has served as a cure for boredom.
In more than seven years since we adopted him, I can't recall a moment of boredom. I can remember many frenzied moments, but there has never been a boring minute.
Everything is fun with him. Sunday, we stopped at a grocery store after church to pick up a few things for lunch. While we were there, he made a discovery.
He was shocked to see that someone had turned Rice Krispie Treats into an actual cereal called Rice Krispies. I had to explain that Snap, Crackle and Pop had been around about 100 years. He couldn't believe it. He still had to try this "new" cereal.
He decided he was going to eat them with his lunch. I told him his mother would probably have a problem with that, but maybe he could have them for dinner or as a snack later. He said he would just eat them for dessert.
He would have, too. He can eat an entire meal and then eat another meal. It isn't like a typical growing boy who seems to eat with a shovel. Dawit was severely malnourished for three years. Even after making it to the orphanage where he was sustained well, he never ate to the point of being full. He never learned to stop himself - he never had a chance to overeat - and even after years of living in a home with a full refrigerator and pantry, something inside him can't stop eating food that is available. He lived for years not knowing where the next meal would come from, and it's like his brain still isn't convinced the next meal will be there.
Thanksgiving has taught us a lot of lessons since we adopted Dawit. We noticed he had a hard time behaving well at the big family gatherings. He was like a pinball bouncing back and forth out of control.
We finally figured out why. Dawit needed the boundaries of a schedule to help him feel comfortable. Free time made him anxious. He was used to the rhythm of the orphanage. Even after he got here, preschool classes had structure. He needed that.
When we just went somewhere with no schedule, he struggled. Even now, he likes to know how long it will take to get where we are going, how long we will stay, what we will do while we are there and other details. Knowing what is next helps him feel comfortable.
Thanksgiving get-togethers also exacerbate his insatiability. We all overeat at Thanksgiving dinners.
But when food is left out for hours, Dawit can be dangerous. A couple of years ago, he ate a few dozen shrimp with the tails still on. He loves shrimp cocktail - a lot. The plate was in another room and he would walk by and grab a few every so often.
When we sat down for our meal, he gave me a look I recognized.
Then it happened.
Mount Dawit erupted. His stomach wasn't big enough to hold all he had eaten. Fortunately, my niece's floor cleaned up easily after I snatched him up and got him into the backyard to finish getting rid of the evidence of his hours of grazing. I'll never look at a shrimp with the tail on the same way again. This wasn't the first or last time it had happened. As time goes by, we learn more ways to help him. As he has matured, he is able to restrain himself from grazing in order to avoid getting sick. It takes conscious effort.
Dawit needs guard rails to feel right and help him act like himself.
That is no different than most adults. Psalm 23 is probably the most famous chapter in the Bible. One of my favorite lines in it is, "Your rod and your staff comfort me."
Why is that?
The rod is protection. The staff is direction.
In this psalm, David is talking about God as a shepherd to us, his sheep. With the rod, we are protected from those who would hurt us. David had been a shepherd. He knew about the rod of protection. He had killed a bear and a lion to protect his sheep.
The staff is direction. You use the staff to help the sheep along and keep them under control. You carefully guide the sheep with the staff.
Knowing there is a rod of protection and a staff of direction are comforting to all of us.
But to those who have truly suffered lack and loss, they are vital. We learned those lessons with Dawit the hard way.
This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for all of the lessons he has taught us and how far he has come in so many ways.