“I’m not doing anything unless they’re paying me.” That was my motto going into 2016.
Then I got invited to hand out Valentines to kids at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Today, a few Awestruck mom friends and I pulled a red wagon around a wing of the hospital and delivered goody bags to sick and recovering kids. Kids who would be stuck in the hospital on Valentine’s Day. The bags included cards people made online, chapstick and shiny red balloons.
One little girl was crying as we approached her door. I wondered if we should even bother, but then her mom motioned for us to come in. “Happy Valentine’s Day!” we said as we handed the little one a goody bag. As soon as she saw the balloon, she stopped crying and started smiling. Like magic. She stared at the balloon, pulled it up and down again and again. She was still smiling as we left.
Another little girl, despite being in pain, was so gracious when she received her Valentine bag. Her mom reminded us of how hard it is to not be in school with her classmates, where 20 healthy kids were handing out valentines to each other.
We gave a sick baby a balloon in the hallway. I watched her play with it, and thought of my own kids. Healthy now, but God forbid… I had to walk around the corner and take a deep breath.
Children’s Hospital is different from a regular hospital in many ways, but one thing I can appreciate is that they have a playroom with toys and crafts on every floor. We visited one and made valentine sticker houses and wreaths with three little boys. One talked to us about how much he missed his little sister, he’d been in the hospital for 4 days. Another confessed that “even though it’s inappropriate”, he really likes sneaking into his big brother’s room and playing Black Ops.
While focusing on these tiny strangers and getting to know them, I was struck by something. When was the last time I sat down with my own kids and just focused on them like this? I take for granted that we live and eat together, that we are physically in each other’s presence all week long, that we are healthy. But for some reason the quality time doesn’t come easy.
I just have to say it.
And this is why sometimes I have to do things that don’t pay me money. Because I need a different kind of payment that I can take home to my family.
As we were leaving I got coffee in the lobby with some of the moms. “Hey, while we’re here, why don’t we give blood!”
I hate giving blood, just so your know. And by the looks on my friends faces, they hated it too.
“But I haven’t eaten anything. Like, nothing. All day,” said one mom.
Yet somehow we banded together and went on a search for the blood donor center. We’d decide whether we could face the needles once we got there. A mom with a baby overheard us asking for directions.
“God bless you,” she said. “It really helps us a lot.” Her face beamed with gratitude. Her voice had both strength and desperation.
“Now we HAVE to do it,” said mom friend Sarah. “We have to do it for THAT mom!”
We marched into the donor room, lattes in hand. “Do you have time for us?”
Unfortunately, they did not have time for us and politely asked us to come back. “Also, you guys should be drinking water.”
Got it. We’ll be back. Full tummies and fully hydrated.
For THAT mom and all the others.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. May you get paid in the best ways possible. xo
For more, check out my youtube channel on the Awestruck network here.