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The adoption story of NBA Broadcaster Ernie Johnson’s son is a lesson for us all

Ernie Johnson

Ernie Johnson | Instagram | Fair Use

Cerith Gardiner - published on 11/19/21

The life and death of Johnson's son reminds us "there's value in everybody."

Two years ago the NBA broadcaster Ernie Johnson shared a moving account of what happened when he and his wife decided to welcome a 3-year-old Romanian orphan with disabilities into their family, according to a report in Today.

Now, on the occasion of his son’s death at the age of 33 from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the video has reemerged on Twitter by a post by NBA on TNT and is a testimony of love that provides a valuable lesson to us all — and perhaps resonates this month in particular with November being National Adoption Month.

The couple made the decision to expand their family in 1991. Johnson’s wife Cheryl flew to Romania to try and adopt a child. The couple had no idea if the long journey would be fruitful, but they “wanted to give some kid a chance that he didn’t have or she didn’t have.”

The very first child Cheryl met at the orphanage was a little boy who’d only ever been outside once in his life, the day he was abandoned in a park by his birth mother. While Cheryl was immediately drawn to the little boy, a woman working at the orphanage warned her off saying, “Don’t take this boy, he’s no good.”

Thankfully Cheryl ignored this warning. Even though Michael couldn’t walk or talk, she rang her husband and told him, “I can’t imagine going through the rest of my life wondering what happened to that blonde-haired boy in that orphanage.”

The Johnsons decided to bring him home aware that it was going to be a challenge. He was then diagnosed with the muscle wasting disease — Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

“He’s three years old and he’s got this fatal disease, and you don’t know what you’re going to do and how you’re going to handle that, you wonder, where’s the value? What’s amazing is the value reveals itself,” Johnson explained.

A shared love

Over the decades he lived with his new family, Michael thrived, even though he had to use a ventilator and needed a wheelchair for his mobility. He took part in events, and as Johnson shared, he was a much-loved member of his school’s basketball team, where he was happy to share “love you, too” with all those involved.

The love he generously gave others didn’t go unnoticed. On Senior Night members of the student body signed “I love you” to Michael.

Johnson wanted to use his son’s story to highlight that there’s “value in everybody.” As he expressed in his speech, “Don’t take ‘Boy’s no good.’ He had done more through that point in his life and impacted more folks than I could ever hope to, because there is value inside everybody.”

Johnson then gave some meaningful advice, “[They] may not be able to do things the way we all do it, may have a different strength, a different weakness and that kind of thing, but there is always value. Find it.”

This reminder is something we can all do with hearing more often, especially in a world where we’re encouraged to seek “perfection.”

On the day of his son’s death Johnson paid a final homage to his son: “This guy we adopted from Romania in 1991 and diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy lived a miraculous life of 33 years. We lost Michael Johnson today and we’re crushed. But we also know we’ll see him again … and that sustains us.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ernie Johnson (@ernie.johnson)

Our prayers go out to the Johnson family, and to Michael: Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen

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