The idea for this edition of WM began with a single word—“adoption”—but at its core, the theme of this issue is a mixture of loss, family, and faith.

And gathering stories for these pages, we’ve seen and heard wonders. Professor Bobby Horton calls it “getting to the good; getting to what a family is.”

For Horton, such moments come when he visits his daughter Maesa’s fourth-grade class to help them with their spelling, or when he first learned to put her hair in a wrap.

For Tara and Scott Smalstig ’88, it’s their daughter Athena’s insistence on giving everyone in the family a hug goodnight and saying, “I love you.”

For Nate Quinn ’00, whose family abandoned him at age 15, the very word “family” is charged with absence; turning from despair, he makes art from loss. “Getting to the good” for Quinn is captured in the lyrics of the late Daryl Coley’s song “When Sunday Comes”: I won’t have to cry no more / Jesus will soothe my troubled mind / all of my heartaches will be left behind / when Sunday comes.”

“Not having family, I threw myself into my art,” Quinn says. “My paintings are my family, it seems. That is what gives me solace.”

We wouldn’t have learned any of this if not for the candor and generosity of the alumni, professors, and families who let us into their hearts and homes and trusted us to tell their stories. Through them we offer here a glimpse of what “living humanely” looks like in the most essential work a person does.

It’s work done through love and faith. The latter need not be religious, but all these folks share a belief that, as Horton says, “we are all in this together” and will “always be there for each other.” And that this work together ultimately makes a difference.

—Steve Charles, editor

Video footage by Adam Phipps, edited by Ben Cramer ’18