A couple months ago the boys and I were at church attending our family "Sunday school." At our church on Sunday evenings everyone in the family attends religious education. We have dinner together and then everyone is split up into age appropriate sessions. This evening the middle school groups were presented a "pay it forward" challenge. They were given $100 and asked to use that money to make more money and then donate their profits to a charity of their choosing.
On the way home in the car I asked the boys how their evening went. They
responded with a few quick grunts of OK. Being the curious (or nosey)
person I am I was unsatisfied with a grunt so I asked Garren, "Which
charity did your group chose?" Garren proudly stated, "We chose
JDRF." Ben smiled and gave him a high five. Garren then continued
explaining how his group wanted to raffle off gift baskets.
Once the car was quiet again, Cole said, "Our group chose the American
Cancer Society. I never suggested JDRF because I didn't want anyone to
feel sorry for us." Using the rear-view mirror to look at Cole in the back
seat I assured him, "I totally understand. I get it. I often
feel the same way."
I did totally get it. Sometimes everything seems so much clearer through
the eyes of a child. Every year since Ben was diagnosed with T1, almost 4
years ago, our family along with some super-duper supportive friends has
participated in the Cohasset Triathlon to raise money for JDRF. And even
though we have successfully raised almost $50,000, every year I end up saying
the same thing, "I am never doing this again."
I never understood why after receiving so much loving support I would always
end up in the same place. But now through Cole's eyes I can see so much
clearer. No matter how much we struggle raising Ben and managing his
diabetes, our life is good and Ben is great. When it comes time to ask
our family and friends for their time and money I feel like we are being whiney
and selfish. And maybe there is a little pride mixed in too. And like
Cole suggested, I don't want people feeling sorry for us, because we are OK.
This past weekend was our third Team Ben fundraising event. And as is
always the case, I spent the last couple months agonizing over the
planning. This year I was convinced this would be it, our last
year! We asked our dear friend John Fitzsimmons if he would be willing to
bring his band and play some music for us. He generously agreed. We
then found a local pizza/bbq place that was willing to set up a tent to accommodate
Saturday night, along with my mother-in-law, I arrived and hour early to setup
and decorate the tent. As we were working outside in the tent there was a
30th birthday party going on inside the restaurant. While we were moving
around tables and tying up balloons the event coordinator interrupted us.
She told me that she wanted to introduce me to someone, the mother from the
30th birthday party. I was puzzled but I reached out my hand, introduced
myself and said "Hello."
The mother looked at me and asked, "Is this a fundraiser for JDRF?"
I, of course, said, "Yes it is." Then suddenly her eyes started to
water and then she said, "My son had Type 1 diabetes." Now this woman
looked fairly young and the fact that she said "had" did not go
unnoticed. After a few seconds of silence I asked, "Had Type
1? What happened?" She then explained that her son had died in his
20s, not too many years ago because of a problem with his kidneys. She
quickly assured me that he did not die because of his diabetes. (Though I still
wonder how true that is. Diabetes often = kidney troubles. But I want to
believe her, so I do.) She continued and explained that once she heard we were
raising money for JDRF she was convinced her son was here too. She felt
his presence. And with tears in her eyes, she thanked us for our hard
work. I didn't know what to say. She was so moved that it was
impossible to not be moved too. She thanked me again and then returned to
Soon my sisters and brother-in-law arrived to help. As we were setting up
the registration table my mother-in-law shared the story of the mother and her
T1 son. Then right as we finished the mother returned. She handed
us some money and told us, "Please take this money for JDRF. Thank
you for all your work. And thank you for bringing my son."
Seriously, this may sound corny, but even my brother-in-law was moved. As she
walked away my brother-in-law asked, "Do we have anymore Team Ben t-shirts
because she should have one?" We didn't. So my brother-in-law chased her
down across the parking lot and took off the t-shirt I had just given him and
he gave it to her. I couldn't hear what they said but the conversation
ended with a hug.
The rest of the evening was so much fun. The music was great (thanks again
Fitzy!) The food was great. And the weather was perfect! The
evening ran smoothly and we raised a nice amount of money. And now,
today, I am left with the question, will I do this again? I don't need to
make my decision until next December when we receive the email letting us know
that registration is opening for the 2014 Cohasset triathlon. But when I
do, I hope I remember the mother who lost her T1 son; because she helped me
realize that our fundraising efforts are not a selfish, whiney, "feel
sorry for me" act. We are not raising funds to cure Ben. We
are raising funds to cure all of our T1 friends (and there are so, so many of