Like many first-time parents, we were joyful to welcome our firstborn into the world. Our joy was tempered with worry, however, as our precious son, Michael, was born eight weeks premature. Michael spent the first 111 days of his life in the NICU, and much of that time on a ventilator. On the third day of his life, the head neonatologist of Michael’s heroic medical team came to my hospital room with this ominous news: “We almost lost your baby last night.” He explained that there had been a middle-of-the-night emergency call, and he told me how he raced back to the hospital and worked frantically with other doctors and nurses to save our baby, whose vital signs were failing. Joyfully, they succeeded.
Michael’s life always seemed like the most remarkable gift we could have ever been given. His survival transformed how I regard the gift of life. More challenges followed for Michael as he grew up and faced a number of neurological problems that were the legacy of a compromised beginning.
Now an adult, Michael has grown into a favorite companion for walking, gardening, watching old movies, and talking about history or current events. Our hearts filled with gratitude and pride over and over as Michael transcended his challenges and succeeded at so many things: graduating from college, seeking his career niche, falling in love and getting married. Michael gets embarrassed when we recount stories from his early months in the hospital, but they stay in my mind as a reminder — life is not guaranteed, and it is never to be taken lightly.
Just days before the end of another school year in Uvalde, Texas, intense heartbreak once again befell a nation mired in gun violence. The innocent lives of 19 children and two of their devoted teachers were senselessly shed, and millions around the world mourn this tragedy. A couple of days after the shooting, while running errands, I noticed kids out and about. I watched one little girl skip into a store holding her mother’s hand. I saw another little boy in a superhero t-shirt helping his dad load a heavy gallon of milk into a cart. I watched a girl who looked to be about the age of the kids who were murdered dance gleefully down the aisle of a store, twirling and smiling all the way. Inwardly, I wanted to hug each child and shout — be safe, be joyful, grow up and live to a very old age!
As a long-time political activist, hearing news of more senseless murders spurs me to action and to this plea: stay close to the children you know. Look around your community and find opportunities to volunteer in ways that can bless and help children. You can make a difference. Find renewal and joy in blessing the lives of people younger than yourself.