We send out a gift to someone, somewhere, practically every day of the week. We rarely find out what ultimately happens with that gift, whether they enjoy it for themselves, or pass it on to someone else. We recently received a gift from one of our customers, and chose to pass it on. And as is often the case, we got back far more than we expected.
Our long-time customer, Uptown Endodontics recently sent us a gift – a box of beads and trinkets from New Orleans, the Mardis Gras capital of the world. They were fun and festive, but we felt this gift was meant to be shared and knew that our friends at Uptown would certainly agree. How could we use these to spread a little love from New Orleans and Mardis Gras that would make an impact on the recipients? After thinking about it for a bit, I had an idea and called the Ronald McDonald House in Durham (RMHD).
I’ve written two other times about RMHD and our experience there. If you have yet to visit one in your area, click here to find the closest location and schedule a visit. It will completely change your perspective on what’s important and what we perceive to be problems.
Every day, RMDH feeds about 75 guests. Organizations round up volunteers to come to the house and prepare dinner. Tuesdays at RMDH is covered by a team of volunteers led by Todd Moody from Revolve Church in Durham. They have been taking care of the meal, week in and week out, for over three years. I asked if I could come by and join in by sharing some gifts and providing the traditional Mardis Gras dessert – King Cakes, and they readily agreed.
I found a recipe on Nola.com that seemed like something I could make. Knowing the guests at RMHD and the fact that many of them were there for treatment of various kinds, I wanted to add my own twist to this traditional delight. Instead of using food colorings for the icing, I made my own using beets, orange juice, spinach and mint, and blueberries.
One of the best parts of serving at RMHD is the opportunity to meet the guests and hear some of their stories. From the young guest with Down Syndrome, to the teenager wearing a mask and fighting off rejection of his heart transplant, to the young man in the wheelchair who slept thru dinner while hugging his Mardis Gras bear, it was a joy to share a brief moment of happiness with this group.
Of course, having a bag full of goodies from New Orleans along with King Cakes made it easy to strike up a conversation. I could tell by the smiles on the faces of the parents and the kids that it was a welcome break from the challenges they all face on a daily basis.
As seems to always be the case, there were plenty of gifts and King Cake for the guests and volunteers. Everyone walked away with a little something extra that night or ‘lagniappe’ (pronounced lan-yap) as our friends from New Orleans like to call it. As dinner was coming to a close, we had one purse left and gave that to Bethany.
Bethany is nine years old and was having surgery the next day. She had a smile on her face the whole time and appreciated the beads and purse. Her sister Jordan and mother Kim shared her story. She suffers from Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrom (no I can’t pronounce it) or KTS. It is an extremely rare disease that in Bethany’s case, manifested itself in blood clots all over her body. Fingers, arms, chest, back, feet, everywhere. She was there to have some of the worst ones removed.
Jordan described it like this. “Have you ever had a Charley horse?” Of course, we all have. “It’s like having one, but for a week at a time”. My eyes welled up just imagining the pain she must feel as a part of every day life.
KTS is the result of a genetic mutation, but its cause is unknown. It affects an estimated 1 in 100,000 people. There is no cure and treatment is primarily symptomatic. In addition to the intense pain, blood clots released in the body can cause life-threatening complications.
We sat and listened to their story, not just about Bethany, but the struggles they faced as a family and how this single mom ended up living in a small town in North Carolina. And once again, as is the case when I’ve met other guests at RMHD, I realized that comparatively, I have no problems.
The next day, we fired up the oven, baked cookies and sent out gifts just as we do almost every day. We like to think the recipients enjoy them and maybe, in some cases, pass some on. I know our friends at Uptown Endodontics don’t mind that we passed on their gift and you can rest assured we don’t mind someone sharing our cookies and brownies either.
I’d like to think that the person who gets a box of our cookies and passes on at least one, receives even a small measure of what we experienced by passing out our Mardis Gras gifts. It confirmed my belief once again that it is truly is better to give than to receive. Amen.