Several weeks ago someone at our church announced that they needed more families to sign up to deliver baskets to Le Bonheur Children’s hospital. Arleigh was all over it. She begged. All total I would be out a Monday afternoon. I thought it would be good for all of us to do so I told her to sign us up. That was several weeks ago. Monday was our day. When I said sure, I had no idea what Monday we would be assigned. When I got a note about the day, I never second guessed it. I also never thought that Ray’s parents would be visiting from out of town necessitating two vehicles for every outing that included all of us. I assumed we would go as a family, I would deal with Bria and Jack and Ray could handle driving downtown and parking. He’s also a wonderful bodyguard if I’m in questionable areas of Memphis. Le Bonhuer’s neighborhood feels totally safe in the light of day. I wasn’t sure how I would feel at dusk.
Monday arrived. You are about to hear exactly how selfish I really am. I have visited with people at Le Bonheur before. I don’t like driving downtown. There isn’t much rush hour in Memphis but what little there is, I would be hitting. The girls and I would have to find a place to park and make our way over to the main entrance…that’s being worked on and not really open. I would have to cross a busy street with two children and three baskets filled with water and snacks for people waiting in the waiting rooms. At least it was the big two and they could help lug filled baskets. I am ashamed to say, all I could think about was the fact that we were supposed to be having family time before Ray left again and here I was splitting us up on an errand, ruining the plans we had.
It’s funny how God has bigger plans. The girls and I sailed downtown with little traffic. I was going against it. I missed a turn on the GPS and slipped into a free parking lot that I had parked in on a previous trip. If I listened to my little friend, Elfred I would have missed the free lot. The weather was perfect. There was no rain as we walked half a block to the entrance. I called ahead to let them know we were there and got a very friendly lady on the phone. The regular girl was out but our new friend, Penny would be happy to meet us. We waited patiently chatting up the guard in the lobby.
Our new friend was fabulous. She treated Arleigh and Hanan like adults. She gave us a tour all the way to each waiting room, slipping us in back doors so we could see just how much planning went into this new hospital. Each floor has two hallways, one for patients, typically in beds and one for the visitors. Art created for children’s eyes is displayed everywhere, some of it created by children. Penny explained carefully to the girls why people would be waiting in each room. This floor is heart surgery… this is the floor for intensive care. Then we hit the PICU. My healthy children weren’t allowed down to the waiting room. Instead, I was brought in a maze of hallways. Parents, some in tears over their newborn babies, were visible. I saw only a few of the babies. That was enough. I suddenly felt horrible. My children are healthy. I wanted to take them to play in their favorite pizza place as our family night instead of providing a brief bit of comfort to these parents in the grip of something awful. I felt horrible for them and awful about my thoughts and feelings on the half hour drive downtown. As I watched a mother pull her baby in a wagon on the cardiac unit with his iv splint, I had a difficult time holding back tears. We have been very, very blessed. I’m not sure if I felt like crying for the baby who looked so miserable, for the mother who looked even more miserable or for me and how awful I had been acting.
As we finished our delivery and collected empty baskets that would soon be returned by another family Penny asked if we had time to see her favorite piece of art. I said sure, no longer worried about getting back to go to dinner. We walked into the outpatient rehab unit. Penny was telling the girls that children, most with neurological disorders were there for therapy. We saw children in wheelchairs waiting for their names to be called. I thought of sweet little Abe and his big old smile that comforted me while we were waiting for Jack…even if he has never met me. I also thought about Jack and whispered prayers of thanks. Maybe it was fresh in my mind because we had our 6-month progress visit that morning. Maybe it was talking about how far he’s come since China and thinking about how much further we would like for him to go. I was reminded of just how blessed we are to have healthy kids. The piece of art… I already have plans to go back with baskets so Bria can see the art. It’s a wind garden with her “Peek-A-Bugs” everywhere doing the hippy hippy shake right outside a window. I also need to stop at the prayer wall to offer a prayer for all the parents facing long hard climbs and a prayer of thanks for my four.
By the time we left, Arleigh was considering public relations so that she could do what Penny does, show people the good that happens in awful situations. Hanan was talking about the baby in the wagon and the little girl at school who just got her new wheelchair, wondering if she goes to therapy there. Penny made sure to tell me that she wanted to show the girls as much as she could in our small timeframe so that if they ever needed a hospital that they wouldn’t be scared of it. She had no idea her tour opened my eyes to the blessings and the hope around me.