Feb 24, 2011

A Call to Arms: Ronald McDonald House Charities

While you’re reading this blog, please raise one of your hands.
OK, come on. Indulge me.
Raise your arm high. A little higher. Like you were in 1st grade and knew the answer, but the teacher wouldn’t call on you.
You’re not raising your hand……………..
That’s better. Keep your hand up and keep reading. I promise to make it worthwhile, if you keep your hand up.
One of my favorite comic strips is by Isabella Bannerman. The cartoon shows a woman with her arm in a sling. In that broken arm, she’s clutching papers that say “PTA”, “Girl Scouts,” “March of Dimes.” The caption reads, “Oh, that’s my volunteering arm. My family wants it kept tied down for six weeks.”

Regardless of how many activities you’re involved in, I think we all can find the humor in that cartoon.
Don’t lower your arm just yet.
First, let’s talk about that “volunteering arm.” How many times have you been in a meeting where someone asks for volunteers to do something? What happens? The chairman asks for a volunteer. There’s a long, uncomfortable pause. Everyone at the table looks down, trying not to make eye contact. Finally, one person in the room raises a hand.
What would happen if no one volunteered?
Keep your arm up. I’m almost done.
At Ronald McDonald House Charities of Mid-Missouri, a home-away-from home for families with seriously-ill children, there are 606 volunteers. Without them, the Ronald McDonald House would have to hire two full-time employees. These people have logged more than a million volunteer hours in the house’s 27-year history. Unlike the Isabella Bannerman cartoon, their volunteering arms never get tired. Why is that?
You can rest your arm now.
I’d like to share a few stories from some of the families who stay at the Ronald McDonald House…stories that have kept so many hands raised for so many years.
This one comes from a grandmother. She writes:
“Here we are at the Ronald McDonald House again. My grandson came to University Children’s Hospital after a semi-tractor trailer rig hit my daughter’s car. It left my 2-year-old grandson a quadriplegic and dependent on a ventilator. We’ve been here six weeks. If not for the Ronald McDonald House, we would have had to sleep in the hospital waiting room…or our car.”
Here’s another journal entry from a mother:
“Tomorrow is Halloween. My baby won’t be able to go trick-or-treating because she’s in the hospital with cancer. The doctors have been so nice not to come out and say she’s going to die. The Ronald House is such a magical place for so many families. It’s a constant symbol of the love and caring that strangers can have for one another.”
And finally, this one from a woman grateful for volunteers:
“My doctor came in the middle of the night and told me my baby needed to be airlifted to Columbia. I was in shock. They took him in a plastic incubator. I couldn’t ride with him. It was as if my heart had left my chest and was put in that box. My doctor said my daughter might have cystic fibrosis. Our world stopped and the tears wouldn’t stay back. My precious little girl might not get to have tea parties, ride a bike or go to prom. The hardest thing was seeing my husband stare down into her face and his tears fall down on her. This man who I married was never so beautiful as when I saw him hold our child and weep. My prayers go out to all who visit this wonderful room, and to the tireless volunteers who made us feel at home. God bless you all.”
The Ronald McDonald House has had its hand up for 27 years…answering the call of more than 10,000 families in crisis.  RMHC now needs your help to finance a new House.  Recently, it had to close for several weeks to make repairs to the aging structure.  Before the House was built, families slept in their cars in the hospital parking lot and ate out of vending machines for sometimes months on end.  If we sit on our hands, who will help these families? 
As cartoonist Isabella Bannerman knows, your “volunteering arm” is not attached to your hand. It’s attached to your heart
The publication date of her cartoon was not lost on me.  It appeared in newspapers on September 10, 2001…the day before the 9/11 attacks.