Tags: The | Other | DeLay

The Other DeLay

Monday, 23 February 2004 12:00 AM

At home, his wife, Christine, just calls him "Tommy." After 37 years of marriage she's earned the right. Presently, Tommy is simultaneously vacuuming their home and brewing coffee. No sleek coifing. No smart ties. He has a baseball cap pulled down snugly over his head and is accoutered in a sweatshirt and jeans.

This is the other Tom DeLay. The one we never see.

Look: There's "The Hammer" dressed as Big Bird (in brown loafers). He is flapping his wings crazily, to the delight of his then-9-year-old daughter. "Cacaaaw!" Christine's head rolls on her shoulder in amusement.

The scene silhouettes the couple's shared passion to help protect innocent children from a sometimes destructive world. Together they've founded The DeLay Foundation for Kids and developed a special community called Oaks at Rio Bend, which provides a home for abused children.

As an elected official, DeLay has worked to pass legislation that increased aid for child abuse victims and improved monitoring of foster children. As a trained Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), Christine works daily to help abused and neglected children affix hope to their lives.

On more than one occasion they've brought their work home. "Christine came home one day and she said she wanted to take this girl in, this 16-year-old girl in," recalls DeLay. "It shocked me a little bit. When she described the life that this girl has had and you just, it just it just gets all over you, you have got to do something about it. So that's what we did."

The couple has since served as foster parents for three teens, an experience that provided an intimate understanding of the foster care system in this country. "Being in foster care, we saw where the system was flawed, and we're trying to correct it. Foster kids are moved from home to home, and every time they leave a family, it creates scar tissue. They lose the ability to trust adults and love people. They pretty much raise themselves and then, at 18, they're sent out on their own. It's amazing that the government removes children from abusive homes and places them in an abusive system. It's just destroying young people."

The DeLays have done something to change that. They've done it with legislation and foundations. And they've done it with small acts of kindness, in quiet moments, when no cameras are rolling. "I can't tell you how many swim meets Tommy watched in those sweltering gyms," recalls Christine. "And when our foster daughters would go on a first date with a boy, he'd sit the boy down and read him the riot act ... the girls loved it because they never had anyone protect them like that."

In such a manner, the DeLays have confronted not just child neglect but also a culture that glorifies eroding family values and forces independence on children at obscenely young ages. We live in an age where children now come home from school, make their own dinner, choose whether or not to do homework and choose what to watch on television, all while navigating their free-floating teen angst. Kids no longer learn from or even interact with adults with much frequency.

Perhaps the DeLays can't change all of that. But there are many ways in which they are making a difference, including welcoming abused kids into their own home. That suggests a rare level of compassion, one that goes beyond the boorish concerns of politics and speaks to the ideal of practicing courage and the act of Christian love. For those politicians who manage to look far enough beyond their own noses to embody this sort of genuine good: all honor to you.

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At home, his wife, Christine, just calls him "Tommy." After 37 years of marriage she's earned the right.Presently, Tommy is simultaneously vacuuming their home and brewing coffee. No sleek coifing. No smart ties. He has a baseball cap pulled down snugly over his head and is...
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2004-00-23
Monday, 23 February 2004 12:00 AM
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