03 October 2012

The Kindness of Others

The kindness of others became particularly apparent to me shortly after Bennett was born and diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.  Friends and family wanted to know how they could help.  But strangers did too.

Sometimes in life, one finds there are more needs to be fulfilled than there are people to help.  But other times, such as right after a loss of a loved one or after the diagnosis of a serious illness, one may find there are more people who want to help than there are needs to be fulfilled.  This is what happened to us.

I quickly realized while Bennett was in the NICU fighting for his life that I needed to quickly assess our family's needs and give people tangible ways to help.  People wanted to offer themselves in ways most helpful to us.  So, I tried to look for concrete ways they could do that best (such as providing meals, mowing our lawn, etc.).  These gifts were given specifically to our family during that time, but I believe it was blessing for both parties involved.

You would think accepting a gift would be easy.  I mean, what child doesn't know how to accept a gift??  But I sometimes find myself struggling to accept gifts without feeling tremendously guilty for doing so.  In fact, early this year, when friends, family and strangers gave more than $4,000 to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation on behalf of Bennett, I had to daily fight the feeling that each financial gift to the CF Foundation in Bennett's honor was somehow a debt that I was racking up.  I struggled not to feel like the more giving people did, the more I would owe something back to them (something that I knew I could never ever repay - how can you repay someone for helping to save your child's life?).

The lesson in my own life I have been working to learn is that when people give, most people are truly giving with no strings attached.

Here are three stories of people who have recently been teaching me what it means to accept kindness from others, no strings attached:

This is Paola.  I met Paola back in May through a mutual friend.  Shortly after our meeting, Paola learned of Bennett's fatal condition and how his birthdays are both limited and particularly special to us.  Paola offered to make his birthday cake on his next birthday for free.  She asked if I would contact her nearer to his birthday.  I was very touched by her offer.

Because accepting gifts can sometimes be harder than giving them, I never contacted Paola, even as Bennett's birthday drew near.  But Paola never forgets a birthday and certainly would not forget Bennett's.  She contacted me a few weeks ago and offered again to bake him a cake.

Realizing she very genuinely wanted to do this for Bennett, I sent her Bennett's request for a birthday cake theme and a few pictures of similarly themed cakes he might like.

A day or so before Bennett's birthday, I arrived at Paola's house to see and pick up the beautifully decorated cake that Paola had labored over for hours baking and designing in her kitchen (even until late in the night and while simultaneously cooking her husband's own birthday cake).

Bennett loved it - just as I hoped he would!  It was so hard to keep the little boys from wanting to touch it constantly while we waited for the birthday party to begin.  Everyone loved the cake.  It was the hit of the party!  And as adorable as the caked looked, it was equally as delicious to eat!

Paola probably realizes that on some level, she touched a little life through her baking this cake.  She made a cake for a little boy who will always remember that on his birthday, he got a his favored Spiderman-Batman-Superman cake.

But this cake wasn't just a gift for him.  It was a gift for our family as well, one that allowed us even better to enjoy the milestone of Bennett making it three years and having done so in such great health.

Yes, Paola's cake was both pleasing to the eye as well as to the tummy.  But what made it most valuable to me was that it was evident that love was baked right into it.

The gift of Paola's baking and her heart of giving was truly one of the best gifts Bennett (and our family) could have received for his birthday.  Thank you, Paola.

I can't mention the kindness of others without mentioning Khimberly Caton, photographer of Snaptastic Shots, who insists every year she wants to photograph Bennett for his birthday and refuses to let us pay her for it.  A blog post is coming up on how much I appreciate Khimberly as I am still working on getting a better picture of her (she's usually the one *behind* the camera, not in front of it).  But I must include her as I reflect on the kindness of others and people who have touched our heart.

A last story to share (although I have so many many more stories outside of these three) is one about a woman who I hardly know.  I had contacted her several weeks ago about purchasing her used patio furniture off of Craigslist.  I made an offer on it but she stuck her to original asking price which was,  unfortunately, more than what Brian and I had originally budgeted to spend.  Sometime later that night, Brian and I reevaluated the situation and agreed the value of the furniture was worth the price she was asking.  So, I contacted her via email and explained we would indeed like to purchase the used furniture from her afterall.  Here's the email I received from her in response:

"Hi Breck, I'd love to give it to y'all for [the price you initial asked for]. I started to google you earlier (you can't be too careful with Craigslist people) and came across your blog. I read it after you left - your family is so sweet!! So I definitely want to drop the price a little. I hope that helps! :)  -Laura"

What a gift to receive!  Even as Brian and I had decided to purchase the furniture at the price she wanted, the sweet young woman chose to give it to us for less.  Her heart was touched by our story, Bennett's story and our fight to keep him alive.  I was so touched by this act of kindness.  We didn't deserve for her to do that.  She just did, moved by a desire within herself to give.  And my role at that point was to choose to accept this gift graciously, recognizing she wanted nothing in return but the satisfaction of knowing she helped.

I share these stories of people's kindness because I always want to remember them, the people behind these acts of kindness and the stories of people who have shown my family incredible thoughtfulness.  

There are times when having a child with Cystic Fibrosis is absolutely terrible.  It's frightening.  It's disappointing.  It's lonely.  But it is moments like these that remind me how blessed we are even in this journey.

I mentioned earlier that accepting gifts is hard.  It's SO hard, at least for me - to admit that there are times when I have needs (even if that need is to simply feel loved by those around me).  I sometimes struggle with allowing others to give to me because I don't want to inconvenience someone or cost them time/energy/money.

But like a friend recently reminded me - sometimes it's a gift to others to allow them to give a gift to you.  And as a pastor once told me, "sometimes it's best not to interfere in the work God is doing is someone else's life - if God is directing them to give to others, it's best to allow God to do his work."  

So, I am learning to view gifts, not as something that inconveniences someone else or as a debt that I must now repay, but simply as the gifts they are: the gift of love.  For the many many gifts of love I have been given, I am so so very thankful.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13


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  2. To give is a gift for the givers :) Simple as that. It makes us feel good, it makes our purpose and our mission in this life much more pleasurable, even as it sounds selfish. :) I love that God has given me an opportunity to make Bennetts birthday just a bit happier. And as long as I live in Waco, Bennett will always have a Bday cake from me to celebrate his milestones. I Love your family already! :))


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