Kim and I are wish granters for The Make-A-Wish Foundation. The title is a bit misleading, however. I mean, it’s not like we are footing the bill for Disney vacations, or even planning them for that matter. The real work is done by dedicated people who rarely get to see the kids whose wishes they’re working on. They’re busy booking flights, making arrangements, and generally making dreams come true. Kim and I get to meet with the wish kids and their families to find out what their wish is, and basically take a disproportionate amount of the credit.
We met our fifth wish kid the other night. It was heartbreaking in the truest sense of the word. We met with a couple whose only child was born with a severe, super rare heart defect. He’s had over a dozen heart surgeries, and he’s only five years old. The same age as the kindergartners that run around Kim’s classroom with carefree spirits and socks wet from being out in the snow.
The fact that he’s five is a miracle. He wasn’t supposed to live to be three days old. The little guy has made more comebacks than Brett Favre, but now his heart is giving out, and his chance for a transplant are slimmer every day. How many five-year-old organ donors are there out there, I couldn’t help but wonder. Not many, I was assured.
Speechless was the only word I can use to describe myself that night. I’ve lived a very charmed life, but even I know better than to try and “fix” things with words that do little more than shine a spotlight on my own ignorance. What do you say to parents who are openly sharing the details of their son’s dangerous surgeries and endless emergency room visits and lengthy med schedule? How do you not break down in tears when you watch a video of birthday highlights knowing full well that the little boy, hooked up to a maze of tubes and yet happily munching on popcorn, may not be able to add to the highlight reel? What’s the right thing to say when the boy’s tough security guard father explains how often he cries and how hard it is to see his only son deteriorate a little more everyday? And what words are appropriate when you hear that his three wishes are 1) a new heart from Jesus, 2) the chance to play with other kids, and 3) to go to Disney World and meet Buzz Lightyear?
There is nothing you can say. Not “sorry”. Not “God has a plan”. Not “be grateful for the time you’ve had with him”. Not “I’m sure he’ll get a heart”. Nothing.
I figured all I could do was listen. So I did the best I could.
Talk about feeling inadequate.
The more we talked about the trip to Disney World, however, the more we all got excited. He’d get to fly on a plane, be around other kids, be treated like a king, and hopefully get to meet his hero, Mr. Lightyear. I know that it will be an experience that they’ll cherish forever. And one they never would have been able to afford on their own. World-renowned heart surgeons don’t come cheap.
Afterward, I wondered why they were so open with everything. I mean, who are we? Total strangers. Two kids who don’t know jack. I guess maybe they could tell we cared. Kim pointed out that they probably were also hoping to show us that their son was worthy of this wish that they were all so excited about. Worthy? Kim and I have a hard time accepting gifts from people, so I could see her point, but I couldn’t help but think how ridiculous that sounded. Who could possibly be more worthy?
On the drive home I questioned my sanity. Why would I willingly put myself into a situation like this; allowing myself to get emotionally involved with people I’ve never met, standing face to face with the questions that have no answers? I concluded that it certainly would be easier to count my lucky stars, pretend things like this don’t really happen, and, if they do, assume they’ll never happen to me. Isn’t that what most people do?
All I know is that we got involved in this because of where God has led us with “Kim & Jason”. And I get the sense that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Everyday I understand a little bit more what I guess I’ve always known…when you commit yourself to God’s plan for your life, and “take up your cross” (as we Christians like to call it), you can expect the scariest, most difficult, but incredibly fulfilling and rewarding journey you could ever imagine.
As I go along, I somehow seem to be more at peace and have more questions at the same time. When I think of this little kid, and hear the stories of how many lives he’s literally changed, I can see God working. I can see a glimpse of his plan. But I still question it. Why him? Why this way?
I think of birds, and how confused they would be if they tried to comprehend the mind of man. It’s impossible. I guess that’s how it is for us. We get pieces, but our perspective just isn’t big enough to see the whole thing. And so we’re left with the questions. Questions that have no answers. At least not ones we’ll get in this life.