“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American poet. Many times I have held my tongue as the temptation to say or write “it isn’t fair” flares. I would shy away from committing to never having said or written it, but I can say with certainty that I try desperately “to not to” (one of my favorite Mater-isms from the Disney movie Cars). The kids and I arrived in Memphis safely late Friday night with the trailer full of household items which were donated by you to give to the families at Target House. I packed every crevice of that trailer with something and it was full to the ceiling across the depth and width. Although I did finally call ahead to warn that we were coming, I think they underestimated my load when I said “friends of Eli have donated some items.” The ladies at the front were still talking about it after the shift had changed, and I was thanked by the management today. Eli is doing pretty well. His counts are a little down, but he seems to feel alright. The teacher is confident that he is keeping up with his grade level, which is now second grade. The occupational and physical therapists are impressed with his strength. Another little boy Eli’s age, who has been in almost lock-step with us except for our five week delay, is having to walk with braces. I wrote about this little boy in the early days, and he has come a long way from basically not walking or talking or communicating at all. I said then that I did not know his nationality, but now know that his father is German and his mother is Spanish, and they live in Guatemala. He has the same cancer as Eli, and the daddy said that the hospital there had only done that type of surgery two other times – ever. So, he made the decision to leave their country and family to come here. They will now travel back every three months for his scans. Eli’s speech and vocal strength has improved to almost normal for his age. The only asterisk is that his lung capacity is half of what it should be, so that is something we are going to talk about. He knows everything that is going on with his medicine and his treatment. I can almost depend on him as much as Vic to tell me what he needs or to explain something. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of weeks I guess and he had changed quite a bit. He has lost a bit more weight and just looked so small. He has lost his beautiful long eye lashes, his eyebrows are thin and his skin was smooth and pale. He has always been a hairy boy, and having not hit puberty yet it was always soft like fine fur. His eyes have always been dark from the outline of his lashes and the accent of his dark eyebrows. His skin color was olive and the summer sun use to brown him to bronze. Obviously, from past pictures, you know that he has not had hair for months, but to see him in person his eyes had stayed the same. I could always look in his eyes and still see him, but now I pretty much only see cancer. I’m sure I will get use to it the longer I am with him. We will go in-patient on Wednesday night to be ready for the first day of his last course of chemo on Thursday morning. I know I haven’t written much lately. There was not much going on with him and I was so busy at home trying to get ready to come, trying (and failing) to get the house ready for me to be away, trying to organize and collect the donations, trying to get the girls ready for school, etc. Then when I got here I was busy trying to settle and unpack, trying to re-learn Eli’s routine and then de-bach the apartment. We spent some time together on Saturday before Vic headed back with the kids. I did better about controlling my emotions, but just had to not think about how long I would be away from them and all the things they would be doing without me. The girls are just growing up so fast and have started caring about their clothes and their hair. So it is tough to be away from them when I know for once they want the help they need. Caleb, I just can hardly stand to be away from him, it just breaks my heart. But fighting this unprovoked battle is like in old cowboy movies where a sheriff would tow a prisoner in to town by tying a rope around him and attach it to his horse. The prisoner didn’t have a choice but to put one foot in front of the other, or I guess he could be dragged, but either way, he was getting from here to there. He could do it walking or he could do it being dragged. Many generous compliments are paid to me as I choose to walk the direction I am forced to go, but not a one of you reading this would get from here to there any differently than me. Nonetheless, I appreciate the sentiments.
It continues to be interesting witnessing the evolution of a soul as I am caught between a giver and a receiver. I’m not sure that without the compact, “high-dose” experience of Eli’s journey my lifetime would have been enough time for me to finally see how I see. Because I have received, I give differently, and because I have given, I receive differently. I am in a unique position that enhances my ability to do each. Despite all the shadows that walk the halls and stand at bedsides here, there is a strong light of good that finds a way to shine. That light has lit the path of our journey every day since the first day, providing a balance with the darkness. That light shone this weekend when we delivered a trailer full of items collected from you. So, how could I speak of fairness when I have been compensated with a new perspective that has grown my heart and mind beyond anything I could have done on my own? Even in my weakest moments when mentally I need to cry “unfair” I can always find someone somewhere with a hardship more challenging, and if not I can always remember our Lord God giving His own son willingly. So, I do not speak of fairness, and I am so thankful for your example of generosity and for the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of giving.