“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion
and the will to help others.” Albert Schweitzer
To get a fire going. Ahhh! We know that only too well. One poorly-timed word, sideways glance or accusatory question to a teenager…and sparks go flying . Before you know it, voices start running up an octave or two, muscles start tensing and words start spewing forth for the impending, unavoidable flare-up. A veritable bonfire could be in the works before you know it! Ha! No one ever told you this parenting thing would be easy. Call for such stamina, nerves of steel and worn-out knees.
On the flip side, it only takes the spark of one individual, one heroic voice, one visionary or one touched by social injustice, personal tragedy or immeasurable suffering to try to set the world right again.
Such was my experience Saturday morning, when I traded in leisure time on a perfect-postcard New England fall day to attend a mandatory training session for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Having been personally touched by childhood cancer, I wanted to become actively involved in this top-notch organization as a goodwill ambassador. Not only because they would be granting a wish to our family, but because I believe that my testimony could prove encouraging to others facing similar circumstances.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation has the system figured out: rules, regulations, security background checks…and they do an excellent job of acquainting their volunteers with the basics before getting truly started. They also do a wonderful job of reminding you why you signed up in the first place. Video clips of children as they are receiving their wish–along with film of the selfless acts of devoted volunteers in shaping the wish to its fullest potential–bring that lump-to-the-throat experience that could hardly find expression anywhere else. Dressing up in hulas to deliver a wish for a Hawaiian trip, or as Spiderman so that a little boy could be “Beetle Boy” for a day and save the city of Pittsburgh from the evil Green Goblin….all served as powerful reminders of fulfilling Make-A-Wish’s vision of “bringing hope, strength and joy” to children around the world.
The foundation got its start after a family lost their own son to leukemia. The mother, so moved by the local police force which granted a wish to her son just a week before he passed away, inspired her to found a program which would exert that same power over countless other children facing life-threatening illnesses around the world. Her singular joy in watching her son receive his wish sparked the fire which would spread around the globe.
Around the world people are following that still quiet voice which inspires them to jump out of their comfort zone and into the arena of hunger and hurt, poverty and pain, illness and illiteracy. Folks like Roberto Perez, international leader of Alfalit—a literacy group that our family is involved with—who retired from his career as a social worker in order to advance the cause of literacy throughout Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries of the world; or of James and Carolyn Loftin, who felt the pull to meet the spiritual needs of the people of China, and founded the Follow One International organization, leaving family, friends and personal comfort behind. There are thousands of others. All felt tugs on their heartstrings to enlarge their circle of concern and stepped out onto the world stage of need.
Most visionaries have suffered inordinate personal suffering. Not witnessed it secondhand. Not read about it. Or heard about it. But experienced it. It seems to go with the territory. A rose isn’t beautiful without its thorns, after all. It is the suffering, really, which serves most often as the springboard for profound change and energetic movement to goodwill on a massive scale.
Pricked by cultural contradictions—as well as the current intersection of media attention and personal anxiety (ever watched even one episode of Desperate Housewives?)—the time is ripe for the launch of the Rocket Mom Society. In no way comparing it—or my vision—to some of the aforementioned luminaries, the need for an international sisterhood is both real and pervasive. Too many parenting seminars, newsletters and media interviews have found me responding to too many attendees with the deer-in-the-headlights-look too deeply etched onto their faces to understand just how real the need truly is. Young moms, especially, lack role models…not to mention a clearly-detailed instruction manual for each one of their kids. With their own moms living hundreds of miles away, few neighborhood moms showing them the ropes, and pop culture stealing commonly-held notions from the best-intentioned of us; this motherhood experience has left many of us feeling hopeless, hapless and helpless. It’s time to put back some good old-fashioned unapologetic optimism back into the parenting equation.
At the risk of sounding holier-than-thou or like the-know-it-all-you-love-to-hate, I will be launching the Rocket Mom Society on November 17. I welcome your support! As a potentially international sisterhood of like-minded moms, our goal will be to “encourage and equip moms for excellence.” Like others who have come before me with a vision, my heart has been pricked, and I need to move forward. Faced, too, with inordinate personal tragedy in my own life, it will serve as a springboard to helping others. Please email me if you live outside the Fairfield County, Connecticut (Westchester County, New York) area. If you live nearby, you are invited to the launch with a simple email for the asking.
The late arrival of this week’s newsletter into your inbox is a reminder that, when push comes to shove, my own kids and husband come first. A need on my own home front will always supersede a need anywhere else. But hopefully, I’ll be able to serve my own family well, while simultaneously enlarge the circle into which I feel especially drawn. I hope you consider becoming a card-carrying member, too. Details will be forthcoming and are also available by sending me an email. I will continue with my weekly newsletters, but I will also move full throttle developing countless hands-on strategies for those I feel called to help. It only takes a spark, and I hope that you’ll add to my fire.