True Riches

June 3, 2013

A while back my wife heard a little truism that she related to me and I have not forgotten it. It's that "A mother is only as happy as her saddest child". Wow! Could anything be closer to the heart of truth than that?  For a considerable time after our little Jesse's drowning accident there was no smiling in our home, no laughing, no jokes.  Our daughter Kristin, Jesse's mom was OUR saddest child. She couldn't have smiled to save her life because Jesse's life was hanging by a thread and a prayer, and Jesse was Kristin's saddest child, and her only child. During our many weeks at Sick Kid's Hospital when Kristin stayed there night and day, never leaving, sleeping beside Jesse's bed amid the blinking lights and electronic beeps of all his monitoring equipment there was a day I will never forget. Actually it was just one of those rogue moments when we were all desperately looking for hope in a future for Jesse or if not a future, at least a tomorrow. We walked from the elevator to the door leading out of the main atrium into the daylight to get some fresh air and a brief change of scenery.  Our goal was to find a moment when we might glimpse proof that the world was still turning and life was continuing as it always had been outside the hospital. It was then that Kristin related to me a little conversation she had had with one of Jesse's doctors.


If you've ever been to Sick Kids Hospital or any children's hospital for that manner you know that you see every manner of broken child in their halls.  Seeing all the many distorted faces and frames of very sick or injured children Kristin asked the doctor, "Doctor I never see any of these kids smile. Why don't any of them ever smile? Is it because they CAN'T smile?" "No", he said, "it's because they are not happy." Talk about discouragement.  That comment was devastating to Kristin. On top of worrying herself sick over Jesse's condition, the thought that had been gnawing away at her soul was, "will my son every be happy again?", for Jesse had yet to give evidence of that.  But listen to this my friends, a compassionate God was watching her there in the hall.  Ever present, he also heard that conversation and felt her pain.


Answering our prayers in the weeks that followed brought about the beautiful and magical day when Jesse laughed, through the sound of all the gurgling in his chest and the congestion in his lungs. It was weak and labored but it was an expression of his joy.  He found humor in something. We're not even sure what it was,  some sight? Some sound?  Maybe his mom's voice. We didn't know and it didn't matter.  Jesse was coming back to us and his joy was leading the way.  That was the day Kristin started smiling again.  She cried ecstatic waves of tears. She told me that it was right then that she knew that the child she loved would be able to experience happiness again. And that made all the difference.  Her saddest child, her only child was coming out of his dark world to see the vision of his mommy's smiling face, wet with tears, her voice filling the room with the sound of her own laughter and thankfulness to the God that never leaves her or forsakes her.


This experience without doubt has forced our family as well as the many people who have connected to Jesse's story to acknowledge a paradyme shift in our values.  To re-examine or to simply realize what is of primary importance and significance in life, what things are truly valuable, and where the true riches are.  How wealthy are we who have good health?  How wealthy are those who are fortunate enough to be recipients of the riches of the goodness of other people's giving hearts.


I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that no man's wealth can be determined by looking into his wallet.  The wealth or poverty of a man is to be found in his heart. What is the value of compassion when it is lavished on the hurting?  What is the worth of kindness or love when shared with your family, your child or your neighbor? These are the riches of the heart, the true riches, the ones that are given away, the monetary value of which cannot be named.  I have often found myself in the company of individuals to which it seems that money is no object, and I'm sure most of you at one time or another have experienced the same thing. There is nothing I can say that is wrong with having money.  It seems at least at first glance that all of our lives might be lived easier if we had a little more of it.  So nothing wrong with you having money, but lots wrong with money having you, when the acquisition or protection of it impacts your values and the things in life that are most important. So what does any of this have to do with Jesse?  Not much really, at least not exclusively.  In that I mean that it is impossible to ignore how many children out there are hurting, how many young mothers and fathers, how many families.  Read the newspapers, turn on the TV. You know it without me telling you, it's everywhere.


People who need compassion more than cash. Those who would trade all that they have in exchange for more love, more support, better health or even just a little more sincere encouragement from just about any source. I have to ask myself, can they get it from me?  Do I have the kind of heart that is willing to give?  Shall I hoard my love today or shall I give it away?  If anything, here's what all this has to do with Jesse.  I ask myself these questions as a result of my witnessing the incredible love and generosity that has been shared with our family since Jesse's horrible injury changed all of our lives.  The money that has been raised for Jesse's therapies is the fruit that has grown out of the compassion living in the hearts of friends, neighbors, and strangers alike.  These are the true riches that I spoke of earlier.


We thank God daily for all of you who have so freely given of yourselves. To the woman who has sent dozens of encouragement cards to Kristin since her days at Sick Kids Hospital. So many that we have had to assemble them into a book. Who can put a value on the impact that has made on the hope that Kristin feels in her heart. The elderly uncle who has tirelessly devoted himself to selling Jesse's Miracle Bracelets as his contribution to fundraising. $10 at a time he has sold over $1,000 worth of them to seniors in convalescent homes. We have met fundraisers who have family members succumbing to cancer and injured children of their own yet these parents are working to help Jesse.  We have been enveloped in a cloak of love through all these months and I find it very difficult to adequately put into words the thankfulness that we feel. The seeds of kindness that all of you have planted have indeed sprouted and I know the blossoms of which are being seen by many thousands who are watching.  The news media, try as they may have yet to tell the story that all of you are telling by the wealth of heart that you are all sharing, making Jesse a happier boy and the world at large a better place to live.


Bob Arrigo

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