As I reflect on the year, many thoughts and emotions surface. It's been a year of personal health challenges and great accomplishments at the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis. As I face my own health challenges, I'm sometimes tempted to wallow and feel sorry for myself, but as I walk the halls of RMHC Memphis I am filled with gratitude and strength.
As hard as it is to watch children battle cancer, they are the ones who give the adults strength and determination to face each day. They don't worry about what's ahead. Instead, they choose to live in the moment. We can all learn lessons by spending just a few minutes with a child. About a month ago, I sat with one of our young patients. He is a six-year-old boy who wanted me to work a jigsaw puzzle with him. I kept putting him off because I was to "busy" with day-to-day work tasks. Finally, the day came that I needed to stop and really look at what's most important. Thankfully, he still wanted to spend time with me. We sat down with a 100-piece puzzle and got to work. Anyone who knows much about kids or has kids knows that their attention span is not very long. This was his first time doing a puzzle with that many pieces so I showed him how to separate the edge pieces from the middle pieces. We celebrated each piece he was able to connect.
We worked for about 30 minutes. Suddenly, he took all of the pieces we had connected and threw them into the air. Obviously, he was done with this activity. At first, I wanted to scold him, but then I realized that he was just enjoying being a kid. We laughed together as we picked up the pieces and put them back in the box. Just this little bit of time spent with a child who faces treatment for cancer everyday brought what's important back into perspective for me. Yes, I have a job to do and that job is important. But, an important part of that job is to take time and "play" with the kids. My personal New Year's goal is to do just that...."play" more.
I received an email from Clara Carrier yesterday that really hit home. Clara is the PR & Marketing Manager, Communications & Special Programs at Ronald McDonald House Charities. Here is what she wrote:
"Take time, often, to reflect on what's most important; faith/spirituality, family, friends and health.
Enjoy and admire, often, the little things in life - a new bright and warm day, the moon dancing with the stars, the butterflies and birds, cookies and milk, a smile on a child's face.
Be inspired, often, by a poet, an actor, a writer, an artist, as well as the people close by and around you.
Share, often, an idea or thought, the helpful feedback, a smile, a laugh, a strong shake of hands and why not a hug or two.
Recognize and celebrate, often, life and the lives of those who you love and care for - do it when they are alive....
And remember, often, those who are not here with us anymore.
Keep in touch, often, by sending an acknowledging message, making a phone call to quickly say "hello" or writing and old fashion, romantic letter or "thank you" note. Your words can come at the time when that person needs to feel appreciated, valued and important - feel that they matter.
Try hard, often, to achieve your dreams, to leave a mark, to listen, to make a difference and to stay true to your own values and principles.
Give, often, by being a generous donor of your prosperity, time and talents.
Have fun, often, at home, at work, with family, friends, coworkers and also when you are alone."
My challenge for everyone reading this is to find ways to "play" more, worry less and enjoy all the things life has to offer. It's hard to look for something good in a bad situation, but like the kids at the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis show us each and every day, it's time to "play" more and worry less.
In closing, the staff, volunteers and families at the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis and Ronald McDonald Houses all around the world would like to express our deepest sympathy to the families and community of Newtown, Conn. In the words of the founder of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Danny Thomas...."No child should die in the dawn of light."
From my family to yours, I wish each of you a Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Remember to celebrate each and every day as if it were your last.