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A Daughter's First Christmas, With Help From The Neighborhood

Clockwise from top left, Nils, Nick, Kim,
Clockwise from top left, Nils, Nick, Kim,

Kim Norgren and her family adopted their daughter, Emme, from Ethiopia in 2011. In this Kind World story, Kim recalls how the kindness of others helped save Christmas that year.

In late December 2011, my husband and I, along with our oldest son, traveled to Ethiopia to bring our daughter home: a five-year-old girl named Eyerusalem, after the city of Jerusalem (Emme, as she’s now known). Our two younger sons stayed home, and although they were being cared for by family and friends, it was difficult to leave our children behind at Christmastime.

Despite the circumstances, it was very important to me that that Christmas feel normal. Our family was about to change dramatically, and I wanted my sons to feel like our family was still our family.  Even though they’d had over two years to prepare for a sister, there’d be no easing into brotherhood. And our daughter would have virtually no time to process being added into a family with three boys.  We planned to return in time for Christmas morning, but we would still be missing out on many family traditions leading up the holiday. Cookies would go unbaked, and presents would go unwrapped.

Kim and Emme flying back to Boston. (Courtesy Norgren Family)
Kim and Emme flying back to Boston. (Courtesy Norgren Family)

After eight days in Ethiopia, we boarded a plane with our new daughter. We were all a bit scared – Emme didn’t speak English then, and, I’m sure, didn’t understand the magnitude of what was happening. If all went according to plan, though, we’d arrive home just in time to put our younger sons to bed on Christmas Eve. But the 16-hour flight turned into 20 hours. We missed our connecting flight, and it looked like we might not make it home that night. I texted frantically, setting up contingency plans. A neighborhood family brought the boys to Christmas Eve Mass, and they waited to see if we would make it home.

Finally, we were able to rebook on a very full flight back to Boston just in time to make it home before bed. We were exhausted, but so thankful to have made it back. When we finally pulled into the driveway, I remember feeling overwhelmed by it all: our whole family was together for the very first time, at last.

As memorable as the moment was, I still couldn’t help but think we’d failed to pull off a traditional Christmas for our kids. But when we walked in the door, we found a surprise: our neighbors had been there already, preparing to welcome us home. There was a pot of soup on the stove warming up. Our kitchen table had plates of cookies and candy. There were baskets of books, and balloons to greet us. It was Christmas Eve.

That year, our neighbors did what we couldn’t: they made our house feel welcoming, for our daughter and our sons, on Christmas. And though I have thanked them, I don’t think any of them realize how much it meant to us that night. This Christmas will mark three years that we've been a complete family. And every year at this time, it’s the kindness of our neighbors that I remember most.

Kind World is a project of the WBUR iLab, celebrating stories of kindness and the profound effect that one act can have on our lives.

Kind World is produced by Zack Ezor, Lisa Tobin, and Nate Goldman. If you have a story of kindness to share, please send us a message or email us at


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