The daylight was just beginning to break as we drove up the mountain near our New Mexico home. We were looking to escape, even just for a day, from the many fears of the unknown.
We knew our son would be born with Down syndrome. Our doctor led us to believe there was no hope. So we were putting our hope in the military—that the powers that be would at least move us closer to family. We were waiting.
At the time, the weight of the future was heavy. We found travel as a means of both physical and mental escape.
We turned on a sermon that seemed to be carbon copied for us. Andy Stanley talked about how suffering makes us “uniquely qualified” to help others who will walk a similar road.
In a time where very little brought us comfort, this was a catalyst towards healing. It started a process that made realize there was purpose in the pain.
I have a thank you note that is a year over-due to a woman named Allison.
I barely knew her in college, but her story of suffering stuck with me before we got Anderson’s diagnosis.
She and her husband had publicly announced their first pregnancy. If you are a parent, you know how over-joyous this time can be. But it all came crashing down the next day when her doctor called her to tell her their baby had signs of Trisomy 18. For many reasons, her doctor explained that he would likely not live. So they waited for the inevitable to happen. Their son Deacon died before he had the chance to take his first breath.
She helped me a few times during my pregnancy and shortly after Anderson was born we met for lunch. She did something unexpected. She wrote us an overly generous check for Anderson’s college fund.
Why? Because she knew we needed it. No, not the money. We needed someone to believe in him, to believe in us as his parents, to believe that our dreams were worth dreaming.
Although our stories were different, she was uniquely qualified to help us at a time when things still looked so uncertain.
That same month we were able to pay it forward to a friend I have only met online. Her son suffers from chronic medical issues. We sent them a check to help make a small dent in the medical bills that were piling up. My friend told that her husband was in disbelief, “Why did they do this?” he asked. Her response: “Because they get it.”
And she was right.
Stanley said this, “There is a fellowship of suffering—a natural bond between those who have suffered deeply and similarly.”
I’ll be the first to tell you that what we went through pales in comparison to these other friends. But our diagnosis story, our NICU stay and open-heart surgery, have made us uniquely qualified to help other parents walking a difficult road alongside their child.
A preacher once said to me, “I believe people are living in hell all around us.”
Sometimes we live in moments that are a glimpse of hell on earth. But even in the dark, there is light. If we let it, our suffering can be a gift. The gift is the gift of purpose, a purpose that is higher than ourselves.
To Allison, You have no idea what your act of kindness meant to us that day and how it continues to shape how we live our lives today. Thank you so very much.