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Setting A Standard In Human Kindness

In the hands of Twyla Lubben’s God, some of life’s most terrible experiences become fertilizer for a flower garden.

A long lifetime ago, she, like many young women of today, was a victim of domestic violence. That marriage ended. And in due time, amid the turmoil of World War II, the young mother of three married again. Her handsome young soldier, Henry, died three weeks ago, after more than 50 years by her side. Their life together did not begin easily. Three miscarriages told Mrs. Lubben she couldn’t bear her new husband’s babies and “after the last loss,” she recalls, “I sat at the edge of the hospital bed and said, ‘Lord, I really wanted my babies. Would you send me some?”’

“You have to be careful what you pray for,” she says now.

The Lubbens became foster parents. Exemplary foster parents. They took in kids no one else would have. Disabled kids. Children of every color. Troubled kids, some the victims of physical abuse, others damaged in the womb by drug and alcohol abusing moms. All told, 100 children have come through the Lubbens’ home. Some for a short stay, some for longer. They adopted 11.

And today, at 85 years old, Twyla Lubben is still at it. Still rocking babies. Her first foster child, whom she adopted, is now 54 and helps her carry on. So does another adopted daughter, now 29. Together, they embrace cast-off infants who have grown more difficult to love, and more needy, with every passing year. The tragic popularity of narcotics does terrible things to babies. Their troubled moms can’t care for them. So they go to people like Twyla. But the infants, at first, are inconsolable. They arch their backs, flail their limbs and cry. In Twyla’s arms they find something new. In Twyla’s arms child abuse, a cycle passed from one generation to another, is broken and a new, healthier heritage is passed along.

Usually, foster parents are unseen heroes. But the Lubbens appeared on our newspaper’s pages back in 1981. The state had decided Twyla and her husband, then 69 and 74, were too old. It went to court to block them from adopting a foster girl who had arrived in the Lubbens’ home as a badly beaten infant and then, as a toddler, had embraced them as her mom and dad. In a hard-fought case, the Lubbens won.

Years passed. Young reporters who had covered that case became editors. One of the lawyers became the state’s attorney general. One of the judges retired and another moved to appellate courts. Society’s troubles deepened: the nation’s foster care caseloads soared by two-thirds and maternal drug abuse became a plague, damaging 62 percent of all infants now in foster care.

And Twyla Lubben, quietly, beyond the headlines, kept rocking her babies. One after the other. Today, the state celebrates her as a model.

To those who might follow in her steps, Lubben says this: “You have to have a great deal of faith. Never did I wait until I could see that I could do it. I just took them. Most needed medical care, clothing and food. I went ahead and took them and then I turned around to my God and said, ‘Lord, these little feet are under my table and you promised you’d be there if I asked.”’ She did, and He was.

If you drive by her tidy home in north Spokane there is nothing about its appearance to hint at all that occurs within. Who has the faith, and the courage, to make other ordinary homes into a place where human gardens bloom?

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Webster/For the editorial board

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