"Finding Diversity in a Small Town"

Read one woman's story of how a homogenous little town takes on a new complexion, and character, through adoption.

Sometimes all a small town needs is a little diversity through adoption.

I knew nothing about the tiny town of Osceola, Indiana, before we moved there. A few days after moving in, I got a phone call from my mother in Tennessee.

“What was the name of that town you moved to, again?”


“That’s what I thought.”


“Ummmm…you’re on CNN.”

After taking in the news, I was sick to my stomach. My new town was getting national press for an upcoming convention—its annual “White Pride Fest,” sponsored by none other than the Ku Klux Klan. I looked at the wedding china I had just unpacked and placed on a shelf and wished I hadn’t thrown away the bubble wrap.

Later, I learned that the Klan had a year-round presence in our town. In fact, we lived only a few miles away from the “Grand Dragon.” Over the following months, I saw his face in the news a lot. His neighbors took him to court over loud gunfire and cross-burnings, but they couldn’t get rid of him.

Welcome to the Neighborhood

A year later, when we began the long process to adopt a baby boy from Guatemala, I was convinced that no adoption agency or social worker would ever approve us. “You want to raise a child of another color less than two miles away from men who wear white sheets?”

I was ready to admit that we knew this was no place to raise a child. That we were planning to move as soon as my husband finished his degree. And that I would do anything to protect my child and educate those around me. But none of this ever came up. Well, unless you count the fact that I nervously blurted it out to everyone we came in contact with—the social worker, our psychologist, the lady who answered the phone at our adoption agency. “Yes-we-know-the-Klan-lives-close-by-but-we-aren’t-racist-please-let-us-adopt.” Each time, I got a puzzled glance and a blink. That was it. Maybe I was the one who was crazy.

On the first warm morning of the following year, my husband and I were in the backyard with our nine-month-old Isaac. Our new next-door neighbor, Gretchen, crossed over to say “Hi,” and did the usual “Oh!” when she saw him. I took a breath, ready to explain who he was and where he came from. But something in her tone stopped me.

Five minutes later, I am screaming at my husband across the lawn— “Gretchen and her husband are adopting from China!” What are the odds that, in a teeny subdivision comprised of only 30 houses in the middle of an almost all-white town that’s home to the KKK, the couple living next door to us would be adopting internationally, too. I was ecstatic.

The Floodgates Open

Over the next few weeks, I learned that, six houses down, a family was waiting to bring home their little girl from China. And that the family across the street had adopted domestically. And that a family at the other end of the block was searching for an adoption agency. Weeks later, my husband and I were out for a walk, and another family caught our eyes—and our ears. They were speaking Spanish, like us, because Mom was from Venezuela and their three-year-old daughter knew no English.

Gretchen and I wore out the grass between our homes that summer, checking on each other’s news. They were waiting on the referral of their little girl. And when we received the referral of two more boys from Guatemala, she was one of the first people I told. We’d walk down the street together, gathering news from other families.

Other neighbors got involved and remarked on what a neat little subdivision this was turning out to be. Referral phone calls and travel news kept everyone coming outside on warm evenings to hear what was new.

The townspeople of Osceola fought back that August: Businesses, restaurants, and hotels posted signs stating that Klan members in town for the annual convention were not welcome there. It was a great summer.

A Sad Goodbye

Before Thanksgiving, I would be buying more bubble wrap. We had made the difficult decision to move closer to family earlier than we expected. Although I had longed for this day since we moved in, I found myself weeping every time I thought about it. Visions of my kids playing with children of other races, and children who were adopted, like them, started to fade. “Can’t we just pick up this street and take it with us?” I asked my husband.

That winter, I found myself in a new town, with new neighbors. I’ve kept up with my old neighbors, and watched their colorful families grow from afar, but I am still amazed at the diversity I found tucked away in sleepy Indiana. I look down my street now and sigh as I remember my street in Osceola.

I wasn’t there in January to welcome Gretchen’s daughter, Paige, home. But I sent a big cookie from my boys. “Welcome to the neighborhood,” was spelled out in icing in every color of the rainbow.


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