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Love & Lighten Up – “We’re on a Mission from God”

This is an article written before the holidays, but it applies to us every day.

November 11th, 2012, I went on a biker run to ‘Totally Kids Specialty Health Care Children’s Hospital’ in Loma Linda, California, to bring Christmas presents to the kids. These are special needs children, they will never have the things you and I take for granted, like feeding themselves or getting out of bed. Angel, a dear friend and an Insights Foundation member, has been going on this for years. I have donated toys before but this was my first time to go see the kids.

First we drove out to a motorcycle shop called “Chopper Place.” Ready with coffee and donuts, they host as many bikers as will show up to go on a toy run for these kids. A couple hundred people were there, from ‘Loving Hearts Ministries’ to bike clubs and a couple of biker gangs who put aside their differences for the kids to receive Christmas presents and attention. It was an awesome sight as the line of bikes rolled out and the sheer vibration went straight through my body and revved up my spirit.

We’re on a mission from God, it’s 26 miles to the hospital, we’ve got a full tank of gas and half a pack of cigarettes. It wasn’t dark, but I was wearing my sunglasses. “Hit it”.

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As we followed behind these bikers on a mission, this was my pep-talk from Angel: “You can’t cry, Kelli, you are doing this for them, don’t lose it!” Angel is pretty direct. She tried to prepare me for what I was to see, I am glad she did. I watched a woman slump against a wall in the hallway and break down, sobbing. A few grown men had to leave; they were not prepared for what they saw.

Some of the babies had survived drowning accidents, others were shaken almost to death by parents on drugs or in a rage; both will kill a child. All were on some form of life support, tubes running everywhere. The regularity of the ventilator’s whooshing sound was a constant reminder that this was the only way they could breathe. The noise was unsettling and the equipment intimidating.

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As these children grow, their severe physical deformities brought on by the damage done by accident or intention becomes more pronounced. They are missing teeth, their heads are swollen while their tiny bodies are withered and frail from lack of coordination and they have difficulty focusing their eyes. Their spirit is beautiful.

So what do they need? Attention, someone to talk to them. Reading the name that was over a bed, I said, “Hi, Santiago, how are you doing, buddy?” He liked the sound of ‘buddy,’ it got a big smile and he turned his head in my direction. He was ‘tickled’ when I touched his head and he made a cooing sound at me; probably not the easiest thing to do on a ventilator. I sang ‘Jingle Bells,’ to him. Finally, I thought, someone who actually likes my singing.

Next was Kenneth. Around ten years old, his whole world was this place. He is the only child there with no family; no one from the outside ever comes to see him. The nurses there are incredible, loving, caring, and doing it on their own for most of the time. They told us he is tired of his movies and gets cranky because he has watched them so many times. So in a very real way he is a typical ten year old! I will be sending him some new movies in a couple of days. I’m stepping up, because he has no family.

On this day, though, hundreds of people were there, shuffling from room to room, stopping at each bed to speak to the young patients. I watched as almost three hundred pounds of biker man, in full biker gear, bent over the rail of the bed and gently held hands with a tiny four year old that almost weighed thirty pounds, if that. These bikers were giving from the softness in their souls. These men for a time, were a father to these children, Angel and I were mothers. We all walked the walk that day, nodding to each other as we passed in the hallways, on our way to give our attention to some very important kids. And we were rewarded sometimes, by some of them, with a tiny spark of recognition.

After seeing all these children, I wondered why not feel gratitude for all that I have? Am I taking it for granted? My own sorrow, regrets, fears and guilt can take center stage in my life if I let them, or if I drink.  Do I really want to practice that connection yet again to the overused path in my head to emotional pain and depression that is just as bad an addiction as the one I have to crack, my drug of choice? Well, when I put it that way, no, of course not, that sounds like a terrible thing to do. Let’s see, stew in self absorbed sorrow (again) or do some good in this world today. Then for God Sakes, go back to the hospital, order some videos!

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Just for today!!!! No matter what I have in life, or don’t have, there will always be someone worse off. And someone better off. Those kids are never going to leave that hospital, but they had smiles on their faces when we gave them our attention.  Am I going to sit around and dwell on my losses? Well, perhaps tomorrow, not today. Today I have something very important to do. What, you ask, is that? I have to go pick up a few videos for Kenneth. Then there will be one less cranky ten year old in this world. What a blessing!

~Love and Lighten Up, Kellina

Practice:

The Holidays are coming! Time to remember all the things I lost and then feel shitty!

Time to wallow in my sorrow, again! Come celebrate my emotional pity party! It will happen, but the question is how long will I stay that way?

This week, every time one of those sad, desolate and/or heartrending thoughts surface, I hold my closed fist to my mouth, inhale and exhale into it, at least twice. Why do something that strange, you ask? Because that is the sound the ventilators make, every time the kids breathe.

I am not hooked to a machine and I sure as hell don’t want to be hooked on thoughts that will only bring me down. I saw the smiles they had even with the machines. Can I do any less with what I have? Give it a shot; try breathing through your fist. You sound like Darth Vader, don’t cha’? (Luke, I am your father…)

Try this when your thoughts are giving you the run-around, before they run you into the ground or back to drugs. The biker run was about the blessings for someone else, not my losses. Reach out yourself any way you can and just for today, make it about the blessings.

Biker Run- Feedback

*Here are prompts for practice work and feedback. Use the space to fill in your responses and when you’re finished please send it back to us. We love your participation and when I receive your feedback form, I will send you mine so that you will know I am working on it also. *For more writing space, use the back*

Remember, Love & Lighten Up ~ Kelli

  •     Angel told me “It’s not about you, it’s for them.” This challenged me to face a different reality. What would it be for you?

Even when someone else is so challenged, sometimes it is still hard to remember my blessings, because my problems are still mine. However, sitting in the ‘feeling sorry for myself’ keeps me stuck. Awareness of my feelings does nothing for me if I just sit there. Action is absolutely necessary for me to move to a better place. Move, move, move! Going there that day made other peoples struggles very real. If I want to forget mine for a while, I can do something for someone else, even if it is only giving someone the gift of listening to them. I think people need that a lot, actually.

  •     Is there someone you can safely reach out to who just needs someone to pay attention to them?

Yes, I noticed a neighbor who is feeling very lonely and isolated right now. I stopped by his house on Christmas Eve and gave him a card and a little gift. It was the only present he had. He was proud to show me his place, and we talked for a bit. I wrote an article about him called ‘Everyone Matters.’

  •     Tis the season, be prepared!  When a thought gets you down, redirect it; breathe into your fist, connect with that breath. Are you trying this one out?

Anytime I started thinking about my losses and feel sorry for myself I breathed into my fist. Took two breaths that way and said “Luke I am your father.” I can’t get anything done if I start feeling bad, silly makes me happier and I get the added bonus of making someone else laugh. Yes, I do this breathing in front of other people. Making people laugh is part of my job description.

  •     The reason our losses weigh heavy on our hearts is because we entertain them for far too long. What positive actions could you think about instead?

Studying how the brain works, this makes perfect sense. We learn to talk because we practiced. We keep ourselves sad because we practice. Overall, I do prefer to be happy,  but for some strange reason, I need reminders.

  •     Sad thought come up? Are you breathing into your fist and saying, “Luke, I am your father.” (If this confuses you, go watch Star Wars).

Breathed into my fist every time I thought of kids and sadness. Chained to a ventilator or crippling emotional thoughts? Same thing.

  •     What an amazing change; if I would wake up with the first thought; “I’m on a mission from God?”

Just like the Blues Brothers, I am on a mission from God. It is in the sharing of the Love and Lighten Up articles, giving out my own feedback and being real. Facing the hard stuff and working through it to get to a better place and accepting myself. And being silly! ‘It’s a 106 miles to Chicago, We’ve got a full tank of gas, half a packet of cigarettes, its dark and we’re wearing sunglasses. Hit it.’ Jake and Elwood had it right!

By Kellina Martin – Positive Living Strategist

Edited by Raven K. Ashleigh

 

In memory of

Olive Ahlheim