That Time We Volunteered at Ronald McDonald House
So I like to share little miracles we see from time to time. Harry and I go through life sometimes wondering if we are legitimately screwing up everything we touch, and not doing anything to make the world better. I suppose we all feel that way sometimes. But I have a fun story where we kinda felt like we made a teensie difference just by being available. I almost hesitate to tell these stories because I don’t know, I don’t want anyone to think I am like “Oh, look at this cool thing.” when it is really small, but I want to encourage everyone to just look for opportunities. We knew this was an opportunity to brighten a couple hours for some people going through hard stuff with their kids; but we just didn’t know it would be more than that. This is the story of That Time We Volunteered at Ronald McDonald House and we had a little ‘God Moment’.
So Harry’s office had organized a trip down to the Ronald McDonald House to serve dinner the SAME NIGHT our kids had a sleep over school trip really close by. So I mean, we had to go. We would have literally driven past the Ronald McDonald House on our way from dropping kiddies off and been like “We are so lazy.” if we had declined. Oh, and the fact that we have lived at the Ronald McDonald House and been the humble receivers of other people donating time, money, food, entertainment, etc we were like “Well, OK, I suppose we will go.” We weren’t against the idea, we were just not super pumped.
The group was supposed to bring and serve dinner and do crafts with the kids – everyone pick a job. Harry goes “want me to draw caricatures? ” and they were like “Sure, that is fun.” Fun fact : Harry and I both used to draw caricatures like through college and after. I would have drawn too except that we had our littlest and someone needed to wrangle her. So Little Miss C pretty much just charmed attendees and ate their food. I pretty much just kept her from eating all the food while trying to also help with the kid’s craft table. We both talked with several families who were in the midst of scary stuff we were in the midst of a few years back. I met a family with a little one with the same heart condition and a cleft just like Little Miss C. They were really happy to see her running around. They said it gave them hope for their little one who that night was hooked up to all kinds of monitors and on all kinds of life preserving medications. It was a good reminder, and while I am not one to really put our kids out for display; I felt really good that Little Miss C running around being crazy was a blessing to those who saw her. I loved that in that little room her very existence gave other people hope.
Well when the dinner volunteer shift came to close a coordinator came to let Harry know he would need to shut it down in 15 minutes or so. I helped him cut the line, this is a hard job because there is always ‘one more pleeeeaaasssse’ plea from like a dozen people; like we would still be there if we just kept taking every single ‘one more please’. The line cutter job is the worst. A woman asked if she and her husband could be the last one.
“Well, I already cut the line and turned some people away, and they need him to quit at 8.” I noticed she was holding a kinda wilted batch of sunflowers.
“Oh, OK, it’s not a big deal.” She said. “I want to watch though, he is good.”
“He is.” Me.
“I got married today.” Said the stranger with the flowers.
“Um, What?” Me.
“Yeah, we just want to be married for our baby. We just have been together a long time, but we just want to be married for him, in case like…..” *shrugs* She was a pretty lady with a sweet face, but not dressed up like a bride in any way. Hair wasn’t done, no fancy nails, nothing.
“You seriously got married today?” Me
“Yes, but just not fancy, we just wanted to be married. We had to get back to the hospital. We will get rings someday.” Her.
I was like “You are drawing one more couple and it is gonna be a fancy one, you can do that right?” to Harry.
I told her to go find her husband and we were gonna squeeze her in but don’t tell anyone; we had turned several people away before she wandered over. I let the coordinator know we’d stay a hair over just to squeeze them in and why. “Oh good! I told her she needed to get a picture drawn, but I think she was waiting til there wasn’t a line.” Coordinator.
So anyway, Harry was drawing quick caricatures, just quick faces – they were super cute, but he was drawing fast so he could serve the most people. Everyone was super happy and it made a lot of people smile.
I asked him to draw a full body caricature for this couple and it needed to be a bride and groom.
“Oh, did you guys just get married?” Harry
“Yes, we got married a couple hours ago.” Husband
“Today?!” Harry *here he got the whole story again*
“Well that is cool, I will put you in a wedding dress? What kind would you have wanted to wear if you had the time?” He asked the new bride.
And then he drew a little picture that kinda felt like too small a gift for our new friends who had been through quite a lot.
They told us how at four months along they were told their little boy was not compatible with life and that termination was best for everyone. Mom and Dad understood the prognosis and said that they would respectfully carry to term and let God take him home in His time frame, but they wouldn’t terminate. They assumed he wouldn’t live long, if at all.
They shared that Eli Jacob wasn’t out of the woods yet, but he was defying odds by still hanging in there at two weeks old. We shared some of the things our doctors said in our first weeks, that our daughter had different things going on, but also really serious things. We shared that we were told she might not live or walk or talk. They fawned all over Little Miss C, they said she was an inspiration as well, but this time it meant even more than with the first couple I spoke with; maybe I just take a while to warm up. I didn’t realize quite how far we had come until that moment. I mean, I do, but that meant a lot to me. I’m gonna break a wee bit out of my “I don’t share a lot of personal stuff” rule and say have spent a lot of days in speech therapy and doctors offices and with a spectrum of preschool teachers that either gloss over obvious delays like they are nothing or act like her delays are an unbelievable mountain of difficulties. We spend lots of days with teams of doctors who do tests on her insides and go “She’s good, but I mean, we need to see her again in a couple months, because by then she might not be.” We struggle with school districts that say she is behind enough that she will definitely struggle when kinder comes, but capable enough to not invest tax payer dollars into therapies or early intervention. We so quickly worry about the future that we have forgotten the fact that we have exceeded so far beyond the worries of yesterday.
It is safe to say C is quite capable of more than was ever anticipated, but still different. We are 100% OK with that, but I would be lying to say it doesn’t ping my mama heart when I see my littlest falling behind in certain areas or when she struggles to interact with her peers. In that moment though I didn’t see my little girl with worry for her future; I saw her as everything this family could ever dare to dream for their Eli. She was four, she was alive, she was walking, she was openly defying her mama, she was feeding herself, she was sorta doing crafts.
We talked with Eli’s parents about how awful/ rad the NICU is until Ronald McDonald House peeps literally turned off the lights. Subtle you guys….. to be fair we were way over and had been given a warning earlier.
So we excused ourselves and promised to pray for Eli, and we did. One day a couple months later I was wondering about Eli and I prayed I could know what happened. We had been praying for him, not necessarily every day, but he was in our thoughts and prayers; and that week just a lot more. Guess what, I got a text with an update from Eli’s mom Melissa that he was still in and out of the hospital for lots of stuff, but he was also HOME and alive! Eli was defying what the doctors had told them! They told them Eli wouldn’t live past birth, when he was born they said he would not live long, and months later he is cooing and working really hard at making doctors scratch their heads. I don’t share this to disrespect doctors, because sometimes everything they say is 100% as predicted; but just sometimes it isn’t. Eli and my Little Miss C are a living testimony of that!
Anyway, Mr. Eli Jacob Cordova has a facebook page for those who want to have updates and pray for him. While he is getting better, he does have a lot of medical expenses too, and with his parent’s permission I am also sharing his Go Fund Me page (with no pressure, but just putting it out there!). His parents have asked me to continue to pray for him and to ask anyone else who does that sort of thing to keep him in their prayers. Eli is already a little miracle! His parents believe that trusting and praying and never giving up on him has so much to do with his progress!
While I hope you will pray for our little friend Eli, I also hope that this is just a little encouragement. If I am being honest, both of us groaned at the idea of ‘one more thing’ on our to do list, especially with a rowdy preschooler in tow. But I am really glad we went, for us, for everyone who Harry made smile that day, and for the little bit of hope we were able to share….. and for our new friend Eli whose parents got married that very day!