Not long ago I first heard the song Difference Maker by one of my very favorite bands. After listening to it countless times, I think I've determined that the songwriter is being a bit sarcastic. There are many who love to shout their achievements at the top of their lungs, who claim to be the "friendliest of friends of God", who take more credit for their talents and their influence than perhaps they should.
I believe that God gives people their gifts. That God chooses people to put into certain situations and that God works to help us help each other. And there are those that do that work humbly and graciously, never asking for accolades or seeking the spotlight. I have been privileged in recent months to meet some of God's most humble servants. That's why when I hear this song I think of some of the truest examples of difference makers that I have ever met: the nurses and staff members at the Pediatric Cancer clinic in Northern Virginia. They would, I am sure, be reluctant to proclaim themselves "Difference Makers", but that is what they are. I am certain that all of them wake up each day just going about the work of doing the best that they can. But I am also certain that God has put them where they are to make a difference in the world, even if that difference is in the very small world and sometimes all too brief life of a child.
Back in December I wrote a post about my visit to Children's National Medical Center and how impressed I was with all the doctors, scientists, researchers and generally giant-brained folks with whom I was able to spend the day. As a mother, I know that if my child had cancer I would be clinging to these people, relying on them to be the ones to keep my child in the here and now. These individuals are remarkable. They are relentless. They are oh-so-smart.
When we talk about raising money for Childhood Cancer, make no mistake. We want answers. We want treatments. We want a cure. And 80% of funds we raise will go to that effort. This cure, this future of eradicating this horrible disease? This is where we want to be someday.
But there is the reality of where we are. When I walk into the clinic or the hospital I am not only among sick children. I am among princesses and fairies. I am among athletes and superheroes. I am among children who want to play and hope and dream. And I am among amazing people who are tasked with making all of those dreams a reality - not tomorrow, not next year, but right now in the midst of a childhood so rudely interrupted.
In addition to the amazing nurses, the hospital and clinic employ child life specialists, psychologists, social workers, music and art therapists, all of whom work toward supporting the whole child in their journey, ensuring that their childhood remains full of play and fun as much as is possible.
They might not talk in terms of t-cells and antibodies and words that are scary and wondrous all at once. They speak in less complicated terms, although to be sure, their jobs are not simple. Their education, their work ethic and their knowledge are not of a garden variety. They are remarkable. They are relentless. They are oh-so-smart. And they are absolutely crucial to the healing of a child.
As Amanda Thompson, the Medical Director of Patient Support Services, says, "We want our patients not just to survive their cancer, but to thrive in spite of it."
In December the nurses opened up a gift shop for the patients to "shop" for their siblings and parents for holiday gifts. I was told of one day when a little girl was too sick to make her ballet class. That day, all of the doctors, nurses and other staff members dressed in tutus and held a ballet class at the clinic. Last week we helped with a Dr. Seuss Day where we read books and gave out treats. There was painting and coloring and creating beaded necklaces. Future plans include a Kentucky Derby Hat making day, an Ice Cream Sundae party and a Carnival Day.
All of these people are well trained. They are professional and smart and highly educated. And I have a confession to make. When I first was going to meet with some of these folks to talk about how Kyle's Kamp could help them, I expected something different. I thought they would be able to turn off their emotions and would be able to steel themselves to the tragedies they see. That they could leave their work at work. That perhaps each patient was like a client. I wanted to imagine that they could compartmentalize their work. I wanted to imagine that they could ward off fear and grief. That their pain was lessened because of their capacity for professionalism.
I think I did that because when I looked at the ripples of pain brought by the loss of a child, I wanted to imagine that there were less scars left behind. I was wrong. I have spent some time of late with these people. Who watch children suffer. Who sit patiently with parents whose terrified eyes plead their help and beg their hope. Who welcome new patients with open arms never knowing how long they will share their lives with them. Who lose not just one child, but countless children.
They paint pictures with them. They string beaded necklaces with them They sings songs. They read books. They tease and giggle and smile. They go back each day and meet another child, all the while putting their hearts out and practically asking that child to give them a new scar. These people don't go to work and punch the clock. They love deeply. Their eyes fill when they speak of the children they have lost. They pray and they cry and they grieve.
And despite the losses they experience, these people don't want to stop showing up everyday. And to do that they need our help. The psycho-social positions like these are funded exclusively through philanthropic means. These difference makers need organizations like Kyle's Kamp and many others to keep doing the work that God has tasked them to do.
Please watch this video from Children's National Medical Center and if you are able please donate to Kyle's Kamp so that we can help all of these children thrive along their journey to survive. And while you say a prayer for sweet Rylie tonight, please remember the nurses, therapists, psychologists and social workers who cross her path each day. Please pray for the Difference Makers.
Jennifer P. Skinner
Jenn Skinner is a Christian and a Texan(Texas Longhorn to be specific!) living in beautiful Virginia with her very patient and funny husband and her 3 very impatient and funny little boys/ball players, She joined the fight against Pediatric Cancer with Kyle's Kamp in 2013. She also writes about just about everything and nothing and the ridiculously abundant life God has gifted her at her blog, The View From Behind Home Plate