|Eli showing off his football given by the Rebel Rags store.|
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that “our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” I’ve been touched by so many people’s efforts to be kind to or do something special for Eli when they see him. It is remarkable to witness a stranger being moved to take some sort of impulsive action in response to a signal sent from his heart. As you know, Eli, personally, does not emit any charismatic vibes. He is always standing behind me, he doesn’t speak to anyone, he usually keeps his head downward, his answer is always “no, I don’t want to (go anywhere, do anything, see anybody)” and, unless he is picking out a toy at a store, he’s ready to get back to the car. But because visually he personifies injustice to the weak as in his case a child who is diseased by no action of his own, people are compelled to do something, anything. One time, I half expected to just have money thrown at us becasue this precious man was so desperate to make it right for Eli. It’s been encouraging and satisfying to see that people are good and want to do good for those who need it. (And, I am specifically talking about strangers. Those of you that we know are motivated on another level. I’ll write to that another time) I think in general, we’ve become charitably lazy because we’ve let the government do it all for us for so long, never seeing the need with our own eyes. We are robbing ourselves of satisfying that “want” Emerson writes about, and we are robbing the recipient of that feeling one gets when another person cares for him or her. Who needs to know that more than that person who is in need? Today, Eli and I took a little afternoon trip to Oxford, MS, to get a look at the University of Mississippi. Most of you know that I am an Auburn University alumna, and the attention our Auburn family has given Eli has been overwhelming, exciting and special. So, I am by no means a Rebel, but for some reason I’ve always had it in my mind that Ole Miss was similar to Auburn - both having an old southern feel, the town around it being small, and fandom being non-conditional and familial. And, I wanted to visit because I just love team spirit - the healthy, tolerant kind, not the poisoning-tree kind. I love to see people passionate and loyal, and I wanted Eli to see that there is a world outside of Auburn and Alabama for which people have the same level of passion. We’ve been watching other football games besides just our home state schools, so I thought this would be another way to drive that point home. We have also been somewhat following the University of Memphis, but during football season that’s not so easy.
|Eli standing in the end zone at Ole Miss.|
So, with Oxford only being about an hour and a half away, I thought it would be fun to change our atmosphere a little. Eli is a good rider because he just watches every single car or truck that we pass, so the trip in the car was no problem. When got there, it was a different story. I’ve noticed his walking is getting a little wobblier, so I’m thinking we are going to be seeing the affects of that chemo for a while. He really didn’t want to walk for very far at all. It’s hard to know if that is laziness or pain. So, we mostly had to just drive and look at the buildings and houses. We found “The Grove,”, which I’ve always heard about, and we found the back side of the stadium then walked around to the front which was open so we went inside and took pictures. I took him down to the field and a young woman that works for the athletic department was finishing her workout (doing stadiums, ladies, who knows what my fav thing is despite breaking my leg doing it?). She spoke to us, and I asked her if she knew if a gate was open on the other side. She was parked over there, too, and had a key, so we followed her out. She was sweet to try to talk to Eli, but I’ve described how that usually goes. I asked her about a souvenir shop that might be open on Sunday and she directed us to Rebel Rags. Of course, I couldn’t help but think of Tiger Rags in Auburn, which maybe they are owned by the same company, I don’t know, but I thanked her and gave her a bracelet. We found it easily. I wanted to get Eli a hat because he wears them all the time to cover his baldness, which is funny because my daddy had so many hats for same purpose. Eli’s gotten picky though, and I don’t know if it’s because of the shunt valve, or “bump” as he calls it, that rises from the back of his head or if he is just a little bit princess now. Anyway, he wore his mask and we went in to look at hats and I got him a little plain tshirt, too. The check-out people -who might have been the owners or somehow connected in that way, I’m not sure, but they were not minimum-wage college-age help - were so nice to Eli, and tried to engage him, but… you know. I thanked them, said we were Auburn fans visiting out of curiosity and then I gave her a bracelet.
|Eli sporting his Memphis blue when we|
found this TN vol huskey at the craft show.
But, after we left, when Eli was already in the car, and I was coming around to get in, the man came out of the store with a big Nike Ole Miss football in his hand and said “Can I give him something?” I said, “oh, well you don’t hav…” He said again, “Can I give him something.” So, I said “sure, sure, that is so nice, yes, he’s right here on this side.” I opened the door, and he handed it to him quickly and said something like “Here ya go, big guy.” I said “Wow, Eli, that’s so cool. We appre…” But, he was gone. I think he was so moved to do something that he was getting emotional and he just couldn’t hang around to be thanked or just wasn’t doing it to be thanked so he quickly went back inside (or maybe I’m making more out of it than it was and the store was really busy). Then on his heals was another lady from the other register that brought Eli a cup and a little football and she said “something for him to play with on the trip back,” and quickly she disappeared back inside, too. They were precious. They didn’t do that to be thanked from me or from Eli, they did it because they saw a wrong and their hearts wanted to make it better for that moment so they acted. I will never ever doubt the ability of an individual to care and to act. We went back to the stadium to get pictures in the stadium with his new hat and his football. I was hoping to catch a security guy or something to see if I could get the Ole Miss coach to sign it, because I'm sure he was there somewhere, but Eli was ready to head back. We also saw Manning Way, but again, the significance was lost on Eli and he didn't want to get out.