Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be. ~Shel Silverstein
Beauty. Inspiration. Courage. Integrity. Love. These are concepts that one hopes to be composed of and/or surrounded by, and I was lucky enough to witness all of them in one morning today. This morning- which seems like days ago now as I write 16 hours after waking up- I began my trek to O’Hare Airport to partake in the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois’ 25 Wishes in 25 Hours to celebrate the Foundation’s 25th Anniversary. (Applause welcomed and deserved.) Here is a video to showcase the remarkable work that the Illinois Chapter has accomplished this past year.
As soon as I heard about today’s events, I signed up. Sure this week was exhausting and the last thing I wanted to do was wake up at 3 am to venture to the airport, but this opportunity trumped any excuses that my tired mind & body pondered coming up with. Simply put, these kids & families are worth it!
At O’Hare Airport, we were welcomed by several airport and airline staff members as we were escorted through security (with our helium balloons) and headed towards to the gate to await the arrival of our first Wish Kid: Abigail (3 years old). The precious Abigail, her little sister (Olive), and her parents were headed to the Beaches Report in Turks & Caicos to visit the Sesame Street Caribbean Adventure, allowing her wish to play with Elmo on the beach to be granted. Lucky girl! The airline welcomed Abigail over the loudspeaker as the other passengers cheered her on as she headed to her First Class seat. Bon voyage, Abigail!
Our next Wish Kid was Giovanni (13 years old) who was off to explore Disney World with his 3 brothers and mother. Since we arrived at the gate early, we were able to bump the whole family up to First Class (!) and board them early for a chance to meet with the crew and pilots. Since Giovanni had never flown before, he was nervous and worried after hearing that his ears may pop- so Lauren gave him her pack of gum. Ciao, Giovanni!
Our last send-off didn’t go as smoothly as the others, but nonetheless we finally met Wish Kid, Niyah (4 years old) at the (right) gate to get her and her family on their way to HAWAII! Again the airlines was fantastic as they worked with us to announce her arrival, upgrade their tickets, give her family Pilot Wings and leis, and the opportunity to meet the pilots and see the cabin before take-off. Aloha, Niyah!
If you read by blog regularly and/or know me personally, you know how much I appreciate the volunteer work that I’m able to do with Make-A-Wish and the children’s hospital. I am inspired by the kids & families that I’m able to meet and devote my time to. I am reminded of how much beauty is in this world and how beautiful people can be. Today, I was reminded of how much beauty I am composed of too. Now if you really do know me, you know that I’ve probably never come out and said that, but today I will.
As I wore my volunteer tee-shirt and carried the balloons proudly through the airport (and on the train too), I was given the extra opportunity to represent the Foundation through many conversations with other travelers. Random people came up to us to commend us for the incredible work that we do. At first I felt guilty and found it necessary to explain that I am a volunteer for the Foundation; however, it finally hit me that I, too, deserve to hear these kind words. But instead of taking too much credit, I seized the opportunity to indulge them all with thoughts on my experience and the work that we’re able to do for these Wish Kids and their families…hopeful that I could inspire them to become a volunteer too!
Over and over again I heard from people, “I admire you for being able to do this. I could never do it.” And over and over again I said, “If you really want to, you can.” I didn’t have a speech because that’s not what this is to me. Instead I spoke from the heart, with hope that these folks would realize that if this cause is important to them, that they shouldn’t hold themselves back.
As a Make-A-Wish volunteer, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Being part of the Foundation- in whatever capacity you choose- will not only make a difference in the lives of the Wish Kids and their families, but it will also make a difference in your own life. Trust me. If you’ve ever given a second thought to volunteering with Make-A-Wish, do it right now. Not only will you be an inspiration in their lives, but they’ll be one in yours. I’ve learned many simple life lessons from my work with the Foundation and hospital: These kids inspire me to live life. They make me see the life really is beautiful, and that there are wonderful, giving people in this world.
I also admit, these kids make me realize that I am one of these people. These kids bring out the best in me, and actually, I think it’s more that they let me be ‘me’. I guess that’s a good segue into my last point. When we grow up, we tend to lose faith that our wishes can come true. Life’s obstacles and stresses change our child-like optimism into cynicism and we begin to see the glass half empty many more times than half full. But adults are only big kids, and therefore, wishes are still possible in the grown-up world…if you believe. We can find that hope and belief again, but sometimes it takes the magic and innocence of a child to help us ensure that once it’s found that it will never be lost again.
“While we try to teach children all about life, children teach us what life is all about.”
**If you are interested in supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation as a volunteer, internship, employee, and/or donor, you can visit the national site at www.wish.org to see if you’re region has a local chapter. Or ask me by commenting on this post or emailing me at Kristen.Medica@gmail.com. I’m happy to help!