Monday, 11 August 2014

The "Thank You" post

For a long time now I have been wanting to write a post to thank all the wonderful people who have made such a difference over the past five months or so. I must have sat down to write this post a dozen times over the past months. I never get far. Each time I would write a few lines, perhaps a draft outline, and then I would be paralysed and unable to continue.

When I get writer's block on a particular subject, the best way to deal with it is to pretend I am writing something else. So here is my post about why it is so hard to write a thank you post. :)

The reasons why it is hard to say "thank you!"

Reason One: As soon as I sit down to write a thank you, I am immediately overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who have helped us. When we first moved to Sydney and enrolled our oldest son in Kindergarten, we knew about 3 families in Sydney. I had a couple of work contacts and we made our first Sydney friends in the first few months here. Our oldest son is in Year 10 now and, with all the rush and bustle of ordinary family life, we had not really had time to stop and consider how things have changed. We have already written letters of thanks to the medical professionals who have worked wonders for Albert. As formidable as their numbers are, they are a small crowd compared to the number of dear friends who constantly offered to cook meals, bake treats, buy and transport groceries, babysit children and generally be helpful in any way they could. We have been surprised, overwhelmed and deeply touched by the friends who have insisted on helping, begged us to tell them ways they can help, and sometimes even bullied us into receiving substantial help along the way! Without the practical love of these friends, these months would have been very much more difficult and very lonely.

Add to this the small army of families organised by the School to provide us with meals each week night and the number of people increases dramatically. This year we have six children enrolled in six different classes. Many parents of other children in our children's respective classes volunteered to cook meals and were organised into rosters by class parents. This ensured that, no matter what chaos and medical mayhem had battered and bruised us during a given day, we always had a home cooked meal each night. At first we tried to keep a list of all the people who had dropped us a meal, intending to write to each of you separately, but we soon realised that keeping track was beyond us. Sometimes our children answered the door and forgot to get names, other times we would open the door to find only a hot meal on the doormat. We simply don't know who gave us what. The value of those meals in helping our family to keep plugging through a very difficult time is impossible to describe. I am sure that any number of you can remember me answering the door dishevelled and mumbling vague thanks. I wish I had the right words then, or even now, to tell you how much that meant to us. There were many days when the only thing that went right was opening the front door to a smiling face and a hot meal.

As if this small army of wonderful people were not enough, the number stretches beyond our imagining when we try to thank those people who have prayed for Albert, and pray for him still! At first I was desperate. I asked every friend I have contact with to to pray. At the time I remember thinking, "perhaps a dozen or so might have time to pray for Albert, which would be good." We were, and still are, stunned at the sheer number of people who have told us they prayed for Albert, and who have kept up with the news and taken prayer intentions directly from this blog. We know that many of my friends, extended family, students and colleagues have joined us in prayer, but we were astounded and overwhelmed by the support we received from contacts all around Australia, North and South America, Europe and even from Africa! Teachers have told me that their whole classroom prayed for Albert each morning for months. Some classes are still asking after him and promising to pray. One student and friend even used his gift of a precious few seconds meeting the new Pope to beg the Holy Father to pray for our boy.

If all this seems a bit much to take in, you are right. I find it impossible, even now, to get my head around the staggering number of people, the sheer weight of the hours of prayer, cooking, transport and babysitting that people have willingly and cheerfully given us. There is most definitely, no way we can even begin to repay you all. Which brings me to the second reason it is so hard to say thank you.

Reason Two: We like to help people. At work or at home, with friend or stranger, our family get a kick out of being helpful to someone else. Susan, in particular, has spent countless hours hand-crafting small presents, designing cards, baking something delicious, for someone she thinks could use a pick-me-up. (I like to help people too, but even good theology is no competition for Susan's cakes!) What is the problem with this, you may well ask? The problem is that we were proud. We did not realise we were proud until we saw the generosity of people mount up beyond a level we could ever repay, and we realised we just had to be humble and receive it all in good grace. To all of you who prayed, cooked and helped, in addition to your invaluable practical help, you have been God's instrument in knocking some hidden pride out of us, and teaching us to be humble. Learning humility is usually a very difficult lesson, but you taught us gently with each meal delivery and each promise of prayer. Even as I struggle to comprehend the numbers and volumes involved, I also cannot find words to adequately express my thanks for this precious gift.

Reason Three: Albert's story is just beginning. It seems as if we are now through the gut wrenching months where any week in which Albert did not come close to death was a good week. Now things have calmed down. Even though the emergency and our immediate need for assistance has passed, it feels strange to be thanking people as if the story were over. Albert is home now. It feels as if we have started a new chapter in this story. A slower and less dramatic chapter, but still a difficult one in many ways. Albert is still effectively housebound for fear of catching a simple cold, and because he needs a CPAP machine whenever he sleeps. Life is different, but not impossible. We do not need meals now so much as our friends' patience with us as our family adjusts to new rules and routines.

Reason Four: We are still so very tired that thinking hard enough to put two coherent sentences together is an effort. We knew that any attempt to thank you all for your astounding generosity would fall woefully short. I simply do not have the words to properly express our gratitude. Nevertheless, as G.K. Chesterton once wrote, anything worth doing is worth doing badly. So, here goes.

To those who have kept us in meals, helped with transport, child-minding, with reassurance and comfort and, most of all, with persistent prayer, we offer our sincere and deepest thanks. We can think of no way to repay you. Thankfully, and thanks to you, God has taught us not to think that way at all. The best way we can imagine to honour your generous gifts is to strive to be a family in which Albert will thrive and, when circumstances allow, to share the amazing gift of Albert with you all.

In the years to come we will tell Albert parts of the story of his early life, and we will teach him to pray for those generous souls who loved him in so many practical ways before he even came home.

No doubt there will be many more to thank along the way as Albert's story continues to unfold in the months and years that follow. We hope very much that he continues to be surrounded by excellent people such as yourselves, and that his life becomes an ongoing blessing to us all.

1 comment:

Josh Miechels said...

"Now things have calmed down." Praise God! Go get 'em Albert!