On his formal adoption day, a gregarious 5-year-old boy helped unlock the most cherished stories of a nation.
CNN published a story on Thursday about a boy in Michigan named Michael who brought his entire kindergarten class in the courtroom as a judge finalized his adoption. Michael said he wanted to bring his class because they are a part of their family.
One by one, his classmates stood up and said they loved him. His soon-to-be parents beamed.
On CNN's Facebook account, readers weighed in with their own adoption stories, showcasing how family is built not by blood, but by love.
Lizz Martinez wrote, 'I was adopted 25 years ago and I absolutely love this. I can picture that day perfectly. I can still remember the smell of the wooden benches in that courtroom, and I can still remember the big bright smile on Judge Elizabeth's face. I was able to live a life I never would have had thanks to the most incredible, strong and resilient single mom that pushed and persevered in a time when a single parent adopting was nearly impossible. Thanks to my mom for my second chance at life. Forever my hero and greatest inspiration.'
Martinez added, 'I have one of my own currently and am absolutely open to adopting. My adopted mother seriously is incredible and if I can be just 10% of the mom she is I know I will have been successful.'
Hilary Ballard Nail had her own heartwarming story. 'When we adopted our foster son several years ago, the happy and supportive energy in the courtroom was wonderful,' she wrote. 'The judge was very sweet as I was very emotional about the event. But the best part was, when we opened the doors to leave and all the families and kids waiting in the hallway clapped for us as we left the building. Some of those folks were struggling still but they had such grace and love. It was beautiful.'
LaTonya Herrod-Fuhring added, 'Adopted 57 years ago and I've had the best parents I could ask for.'
Hop Sing echoed that sentiment: 'Great story,' she wrote. 'I was adopted and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.'
Brodie Shields wrote, 'My Sister was adopted before I was born. I waited a lifetime to meet her and finally met her when I was 33. I love her so much and was happy to know she had a great childhood and adoptive family. Bless those special people who adopt these children and give them a loving home, they so deserve to be loved and taken care of.'
Orla Maxwell Frye shared, 'I adopted my step son 2 yrs ago. He wore a t-shirt that said 'Adoption Rocks.' The Judge loved it.'
Stephen Satterfield commented, 'I was adopted 14 years ago. I'm planning on adopting a kid (whilst having my own) when I'm able to (I'm only have 17 and have college soon). I am also adopted by a single mom.'
But others expressed doubts, noting that our collective story of adoption isn't fully expressed through families smiling and hugging. There's a deeper, and often painful story, playing out beyond the view of television cameras.
Sarah Conte said her view was that adoption is 'complex, it's hard, and it's traumatic for the kids and first families. Unfortunately lots of people only want to hear from adoptive parents and yes, they're happy. Good. I was happy the day I adopted my daughter too. It was a lovely day. But I would be lying if I said I wasn't sad too because it meant my daughter would never go back to her first mom. Adoption is about love but it's also about loss too.'
In a Facebook post, Kent County summed up how Michael helped remind a nation of our common bonds.
'Perhaps the interest in Michael's story proves that the things that unite us are far more important to us than the things that divide us. We learned this lesson from a five year old who never endeavored to teach.
'He simply let us witness love, effortlessly.
'Thank you, Michael'