A couple of weeks ago I brought a dear friend over to see the Ronald McDonald House. As we walked through the House, I talked about how important it was to us that the building itself be a part of the healing and nurturing process for anyone who enters our doors – whether family, friend, volunteer, staff, visitor or vendor. He and I had made our way up to the third floor, and quite to his and my surprise, he was suddenly moved almost to tears by this sacred place – a place made truly sacred by the fears, the hopes, the tears, the rage, the joys – and very importantly the constant care that permeates this House.
Afterward we were standing in the garden and he told me that his middle son was born with a cleft palate. That baby had multiple surgeries and he told me that some of the most heart wrenching and difficult moments he has experienced in life were when he had to give up that baby boy from his arms into the arms of the surgeons. His words and his experiences helped me empathize even more closely with the young fathers and mothers who stay with us.
A week or so later I met that son, who now has a very pudgy baby boy of his own. I noticed the telltale scar on his lip. When I looked at that scar, though, I didn’t think of the surgery but instead I thought of the love and fear and trust at that moment over twenty years ago when his dad placed him into the physician’s arms.
Moments like that are experienced by our families almost every day.
I look at scars differently now. I notice much more now when I see the little bald heads of the children undergoing cancer treatment, or I watch the joyful limping gait of a child walking again after surgery, or see a baby smiling for the first time. I think of my friend over twenty years ago, a frightened young dad in an unfamiliar place worrying about getting the very best care for his baby boy. I wish there had been a place like our House for him.
It makes me grateful almost beyond words that I am part of providing this place of care and support for all the young families who stay with us. Every day I see the powerful impact of the simple acts of care that are the heart of all that we do here.