I had recently graduated university and just finished my student teaching. I was living at my mom’s and substitute teaching, preparing to go to the international teaching job fair later that year. It was winter. We were staying in a travel trailer next to the farm house they were rebuilding/remodeling. I read a lot of library books that winter. One of them was Pay it Forward. I remember sitting in my fold out bed, cozy under a pile of warm blankets, reading by a small light above me. I remember crying my eyes out through the end of the book. (Later there was a film with Haley Joel Osment based on the book.) The book is about a twelve year old boy that takes on a challenge given to him by his teacher, to come up with an idea to change the world. His idea is to do something kind for three people and when they ask what they can do in return for him, he simply asks them to pay his kindness forward. It’s a great idea. So great, that the term has been coined as a way to do kindness for others, without reward. Brilliant. It would be brilliant if society did kind things for each other all the time and didn’t expect anything in return. Sometimes they do.
You may be following Kate’s story about losing her son Gavin, on Chasing Rainbows. On her birthday she had to say goodbye to her son. She asked for everyone to do something kind for someone else, in Gavin’s name. In his memory and in celebration of her birthday. Beautiful. There are thousands of people all over the world reaching out and doing good things for others in Gavin’s name. Kate’s little boy has changed the world. Much like the little boy in Pay it Forward. But as Kate says, Gavin did so, without uttering a word.
My heart is breaking for the loss Kate and her family are experiencing. I wish I could be there for her, even though we’ve never met. She’s asked that in lieu of flowers, Gavin’s fans can show their love and support in other ways. In Lieu of Flowers Part 1 and In Lieu of Flowers Part 2 share the heartbreakingly beautiful stories of the organizations that she reaches out to us to show our support. The first is the Child Life specialist team at the hospital where he received much and frequent care and the second is an organization the supports families during a donor transplant (Gavin’s kidneys were successfully transplanted into a 40 year old man). The third is the ogranization that helped Kate in her early days with Gavin and got her started with blogging.
We had a wonderful experience with our own Child Life specialist at the hospital recently when Sebastian underwent G-tube surgery. I am so thankful I was urged to contact them, I hadn’t known they were there to help us. When my brother Josh died, my parents gave their consent for organ donation and months later we received a letter in the mail stating that his eyes had successfully been transplanted. A man could see because of my brother’s healthy eyes. It was a strange and amazing feeling to know that someone out in the world was walking around with my brother’s blue eyes. Ever since then I have been an organ donor. What do I need with my body after my spirit has left it anyway? I know other families that have also found great comfort using the Caringbridge site that Kate started on during their experiences with life threatening health situations too. It is a life line for many. And I know that even though it wasn’t a specific site for me when I started, the blogging community brought (and continues to bring) me so much support and even new friends. I feel connected with all of these organizations. I love that Kate has invited us to show our support in such meaningful ways.
How will we Pay it Forward for Kate and Gavin, aside from the above? Sebastian’s 5th birthday is coming up. There are a few charities that have helped us so much since we have lived in Toronto. I always want to give back but sometimes it’s not financially viable for us. We are celebrating Sebastian’s birthday at school with a puppet show party. For those school friends that want to get him a gift, we are asking they donate to one of those charities in Sebastian’s honor instead. We are so thankful for all of the support we get from folks far and wide. We hope that we can Pay it Forward to Easter Seals, Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy, Three to Be, and Epilepsy Toronto.