It was activity hour at the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore and there was Will and my daughter Sophie. Will was listening politely and attentively as Sophie read him a story. Sophie, animated and engaging, was holding the book upright with two hands and turning the pages as she moved through the story. Will only had one arm available because the left was completely covered in a cast, from fingertips to his elbow and beyond, the right hand was gently grasping a small stuffed animal. Will has cerebral palsy and is in town for treatment…
“It’s time to go”. That was what I said as I came barreling through the door Wednesday night after attending the Orioles day game. Sophie was relaxing on the couch, and looking pretty comfortable even though we needed to leave in exactly five minutes to head downtown for activity hour at Ronald McDonald House. Sophie has volunteered there several times and had agreed to go with me on this night and read stories to the children who are currently staying at the House. I actually felt bad, it took me a long time to get back home from the ballpark and now we only had a few minutes to get ready to leave. Sophie enjoys volunteering at the House, but she’s also 13 years old, and sometimes teenagers don’t feel like doing a certain thing at a certain moment. Sophie was going, but she wasn’t in the best mood, bringing her iPhone and her ear buds along for the ride downtown. She felt rushed and I knew it, but when you commit, you follow through. Still, the car ride down was quiet.
We got to the Ronald McDonald House right on time for activity hour. And they made the announcement for the families to join us, if they like, for some reading time. A few minutes later Will, his brother Casey and their Mom came through the playroom. Sophie had brought along about half-a-dozen books to choose from and Will picked one out. After Sophie finished the first book, Will selected another one, a Curious George classic. I chatted with Will’s mom and learned his story.
The family is from Vermont and staying at the House for a month while Will undergoes treatment. Because of the cerebral palsy Will ignores his right arm, he doesn’t use it, so the doctors put his left arm and hand in a cast, completely covering it, so he would be forced to use the right one. Will’s mom said it is a fairly intense treatment, but for 5-year-old Will it was worth it. From what I could see it seemed to be working, as I watched Will later playing with some toys trucks, using his right hand to guide them around the room.
Part of this family was staying at their home-away-from-home for an entire month. Will’s mom told me her husband was back home in Vermont with their third child. Will’s dad needed to stay back home to work and make a living. It’s a tough thing to go through, but you do all you can when your child is afflicted, and you make the sacrifices necessary. I’m sure it helps Will to have his mom and his little brother Casey there at the House to keep him company. Love is life’s greatest medicine and it is delivered in giant doses when those who love you most are close at hand. This is the mission of the Ronald McDonald House, keeping love close.
…I glanced over at Sophie and Will, child reading to child. The picture I attached to the blog is worth a thousand more words than I could ever write. Sophie has a big heart and she was sharing it with another heart so young, innocent and challenged, as he makes his way in this world. Will’s way has obstacles to overcome. We wish him and his family all the best as they face the road ahead.
And this is really at the core of why I serve on the Board of Directors for this Ronald McDonald House, to try and make a difference. To give back. I think Sophie is getting the message. I hope she is. Actually I know she is.
Driving back home from our time at the House, Sophie was transformed from my teenage daughter, who earlier seemed to be just along for the ride, to someone who was now feeling the sensation you only get from doing the right thing for someone else in need. Now on the drive back, Sophie was chatting and already sharing some memories of what just happened. I felt the same sensation she did. I glanced in the rear view mirror at my daughter in the back seat and knew how blessed I am that she is OK. And when you are so blessed, the responsibility is to share your blessings by giving back however you can, with dollars, with time, with love.
As we got near home, Sophie and I stopped talking to listen to the song now playing on the radio, Jim Brickman’s recent single, “Beautiful World”. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHohxz0NhvI)
The moon is high above you.
We’re all here ’cause we love you.
And when you finally open your eyes and ears
you’ll see and you’ll hear us sing.
La, la, la, la, la
It’s a beautiful world… we’re all here.
It’s the way we hope Will can view his world.
And we’re all here, cheering him on.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.