Today I got to do something I've wanted to do for some time. One Saturday a month, people at my church volunteer to serve lunch to the families a Ronald McDonald House. When we first started doing this, I was unable to go due to some prior obligations. I planned to start volunteering right after the Christmas season. However, I was diagnosed with cancer that December so that made it impossible for me to participate; first due to my surgery and secondly due to the fact that I was in treatment and my immune system was severely weakened. So, I waited.
I signed up to go this past September but I developed a severe cold that week which meant I couldn't go. The same thing happened in October. Getting back into the classroom again was certainly making my immune system go into overtime.
November has been a month of illness in my classroom. Every day someone was gone. We've been going through boxes of tissues. Everyone seemed to be getting a sore throat. By Wednesday evening, my voice was threatening to give out. "This snowy, blustery weather is not helping", I thought ruefully as I scrapped ice off my windshield after school on Wednesday evening. I woke up on Thursday with the beginning of a sore throat. Oh no. This isn't good. I have cold-induced asthma and it takes me forever to get rid of a cold.
So, I prayed. I really didn't want to deal with this right now. I wanted to go to the Ronald McDonald House on Saturday; not stay home in bed.
On Friday morning my throat felt fine. I carefully tested my voice. Hmm...it seemed to be working okay. I tried singing along with the radio on my way to work and hit each note clearly and perfectly. I ran up and down the scale. That seems good also. My voice stood up well all day against 28 seven and eight year olds. My voice won! Praise God! There wasn't the slightest hint of a cold or sore throat. I'm good to go.
This morning I showed up at the Ronald McDonald House. To my delight, there were several ladies from our church whom I had not seen since last June. They live in another town and they go to the Saturday service and I usually go on Sunday. We had been in a small group together last winter and spring. I knew they made special blankets for the children whose families were staying at the Ronald McDonald House but I didn't know if they would be there today.
These precious women were some of the women who brought meals and encouragement to my home while I was undergoing chemotherapy. Now I was going to get a chance to serve others along with them. What a blessing!
As things slowed down, we had a chance to visit with some of the residents. Many of these people are far from family and friends and they are eager to have someone to talk to besides doctors and nurses. I visited with a woman from Miami and her sister-in-law from Nicaragua. Her 15 year-old son was being treated for cancer for the second time. He had undergone a bone marrow transplant two weeks before. He would be staying up here until at least the end of January. The sister-in-law was a four year breast cancer survivor so she was an encouragement to me. It's funny how that works.
The mother poured out her heart to me and told me how much all of this meant to her. She had already told her husband that when they returned home, they were going to volunteer at their local Ronald McDonald House. "I've received so much. So many people have done so much for me that I just want to do the same for someone else."
After she left, I watched my friends wrapping their "Blankets of Love" around children. I thought about how much they had blessed me and how they were continuing to bless others. The crowd was gone now and it was time to clean up. Tears filled my eyes. I just couldn't help myself. I approached these precious women and embraced each one of them. To others these may have seemed like just blankets but those of us who have had life-threatening illnesses know they are far more than that. These blankets are embraces of love. "Thank you," I whispered to each one of them as I hugged them. "As a cancer survivor I just want to say thank you for loving us."
This is the way it is suppose to work. We receive from others and then we in turn give to others. This is the gift that keeps on giving. This is the gift of love