Little milestones serve as a great reminder of how far Dawit has come.
We see it every day.
Something happens, whether it is something he says or does or doesn't do or doesn't say. Something happens every day to remind us how far Dawit has come since he first arrived here from Ethiopia on July 6, 2011.
The obvious signs come when he has grown from the second percentile of growth in height and weight to about the seventy-fifth. I've never seen a child eat salad like Dawit and I guess it sustains incredible growth. It worked for him.
We also watch as he tries to master soccer. He loves soccer. But trying to understand what the coaches want him to do is not always as easy as it would seem.
Dawit has learned to stand at the back of a line and watch other kids on the team and try to replicate what they do when the words he hears don't quite make sense.
He does the same thing in his preschool class.
His understood and spoken vocabulary increase almost daily. That makes class time much more enjoyable for him and his teachers. Like most kids would, Dawit gets a frustrated and tries to make his own fun when he doesn't understand what he is supposed to do.
His acting up is understandable and predictable.
But understandable and predictable behaviors aren't any less annoying for those trying to lead a classroom or team.
We know how fortunate we have been with patient Sunday School and preschool teachers and soccer coaches. They have put a lot of time and energy into Dawit and the results speak for themselves.
Soccer is big in Ethiopia and their national team did just qualify for the African Cup for the first time in 30 years. But 4-year-olds in orphanages don't pick up a lot of techniques.
Sure, a couple of weeks ago when he was taken out of his soccer game, he drank all of his water and poured out all the jugs and bottles of his teammates because playing in water is fun. But a week later he kicked a ball that went into the goal. Even though a penalty kept it from counting, the fact that he has improved to the point where he kicks it the right direction and knows what he is supposed to do is a big step forward for Dawit.
But one milestone he passed this weekend reminded me of how far he has really come.
One year ago at the Douglass Frontier Day carnival, Dawit desperately wanted to ride the carousel. Of course we let him.
But on that ride, his emotions quickly swung from elation to fear. As that horse made the circle away from us, he felt the distance. His fear of being left again was triggered and he wailed.
Obviously, we reassured him that we were never going to leave him and he was comforted. But that gut reaction showed us that he wasn't quite sure of his status in the family even after three months with us.
But this weekend, he rode that same horse and laughed all the way around and back again. There was no fear. The ride brought only joy.
The shadows of abandonment and loneliness are growing dimmer with each passing day.
Every milestone shows him taking steps away from being a sick little boy whose mother abandoned him at an orphanage so he could get the medical care and nourishment he needed toward being a normal little boy growing up in Kansas.
He will never forget his heritage. We won't let him.
But we will encourage his growth and push him to make the most of every advantage his new life has to offer.
Dawit has come a long way, but he has so much further to go.
Those little milestones serve as a great reminder of how far he has come and what potential has yet to be tapped.
Kent Bush is the Augusta Gazette Publisher, a columnist and blogger for the GateHouse Media Network. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.