If your child had a severe disorder so rare that only 11 people in the world have it, would you be able to find thankfulness in your heart this season?
If every morning when you woke up you couldn't predict which debilitating symptoms of a horrible disease would plague you that day, would you find joy enough in your heart to sing and smile?
I just returned from Be The Match, a public event for the collection of DNA samples to find a stem cell match for Kelsey and Karly Koch, two young sisters afflicted with a grave primary immune deficiency disease.
Here are my observations about thankfulness in the midst of a heart-wrenching situation:
The turnout for the event was amazing. As I instructed dozens of donors on the proper cheek-swabbing procedure, I was moved over and over by sincere, enthusiastic exclamations such as, "I hope I'm the one! I want to be the match!" I was so grateful to witness sacrificial love that prompted people to wait in line, donate funds and pray that they would indeed "be the one."
I stood next to Kelsey, 21, as she spoke with donors, smiling the whole time and expressing hope for a future and gratitude for those who had come to help her, even though she had awakened that morning feeling worse than you or I could probably imagine.
I observed my co-worker Christy, who poured so much energy into preparation for this day, buzzing around helping wherever she was needed. Christy was the force behind publicity, garnering donations from local businesses, communicating between the foundation and our church, coordinating, instructing and scheduling the volunteers, all because her heart was full of love and compassion for Karly and Kelsey.
I watched a loving father attend the event, helping where he could, while his wife was with Karly, 15, who is currently hospitalized at the National Institute of Health in Maryland, and I was thankful that the girls have such devoted parents and siblings.
Finally, how inspiring it was to read the following on Kelsey's blog recently:
"A song started playing in my head. God was singing to me the song Stay Strong:
You're in the moment now
When all that you've been blessed with
Is not enough
Here's where the ground gets loose
Here's where the devils call your bluff
Get up, there's further to go
Get up, there's more to be done
Get up, this witness is sure
Get up, this race can be won"
I'm grateful this season for all that is beautiful and good like bountiful harvests, health and other luxuries, but also for all that is beautiful and good in the midst of heartache and suffering. Thank you, Kelsey, for bringing thankfulness into a new light for all of us this year, especially me. This race can be won!