Last night we went to the Ronald McDonald house, which is not at all like the regular McDonald house where they sell you fries and shamrock shakes. This is a place where families stay when they have a child with a serious illness staying at the Children’s Hospital.My church group went to make food for the families, and frankly I was so impressed with the generosity and culinary skills of my group. My friends prepared a feast of BBQ chicken and rice pilaf.
During dinner many were able to visit with the families, hearing their stories, seeing photos of their children and their babies who were being treated. Derrick and I brought the boys so I wasn’t able to eavesdrop as I usually do. I had to keep my eye on three little hooligans who really liked the tricycles in the courtyard. At first I felt a little useless. I wasn’t interacting with the families, I wasn’t encouraging them. I was chasing children and asking Shel not to run over toddlers. Shel is a maniac tricycle rider.
Then I noticed a little boy playing with my kids. He was staying at the house, waiting for a sibling to heal at the hospital. I suddenly didn’t mind ignoring the adults because I figured the kid needed social interactions too.
During the meal I heard a helicopter fly in and my heart sank. In my mind, the helicopter isn’t needed unless there’s a national disaster. Kids just don’t get sick enough on regular days to need a medevac.
Except they do.
So I dished some rice onto my healthy children’s plate and felt like crying. If I lived at the hospital I wouldn’t need church bells or an alarm clock to remind me to pray. The harsh sound of the helicopter would be my call. I said my prayers with more fervor than usual as my boys crowded to the edge of the lawn to get a better glimpse of the mechanical bird.
The pilot gave them a helicopter pin. Sheldon told me he would be a “builder policeman helicopter man” when he grows up. I smiled and hoped that exact thing for my boy. Maybe not a “builder policeman helicopter man” exactly but I want him to be someone who takes care of the hurting when he’s big.
I want to take care of the hurting too, and sometimes, as a mother, it feels impossible. Being at home is so isolating. I can’t just run off and volunteer, which is frustrating and ironic, since I never felt such a strong desire to help people before I was a mother.
When the opportunity arises, as it did last night, to serve others and take the kids along, there is much motherly rejoicing.
And when we got there, I wasn’t serving so much as watching the kids…again.
And I’m learning to see smaller. Maybe the green salad I threw out of a box was what the families there really needed. But maybe, just maybe, the prayer I said over the tomatoes was what they really needed. Perhaps the play time with my children was encouraging to the little 8 year old boy living under the shadow of sickness.
Today my healthy boys fight with each other and sword fight, and sometimes I see a flash of silver on their shirts, a small helicopter pin being worn with pride. The pin that makes their mother want to cry, the pin that has become a call to prayer for her, so many times this morning.
Our God is the God for mothers. Like a flash of silver light on a Star Wars shirt, we hand out bowls of cereal and talk about superheroes with faith, expecting these things to grow our children into “builder policemen helicopter men” who help the world. We can’t often serve outside our family, and when we do it’s usually in a corner, checking on boys to make sure no tricycles crash into azalea bushes. We don’t deal in grand things, even though we dream of them. We deal in prayers over cherry tomatoes and great expectations.
Lord, hear our prayers and be pleased with our offerings, and be with the mothers whose children are sick.
I highly encourage you to find the Ronald McDonald House nearest you and find out how you can help. We share a city with one and it was such a blessing to bring food to the parents. If you donate to the charity the money goes to the house, not to the french fries. They often need toilet paper or laundry detergent, or coffee and granola bars, so you don’t even have to be a cook. It was really such a blessing for my family to be able to serve there. But even if you can’t serve and end up standing in a corner watching a tricycle race, don’t underestimate the power of a prayer.