ronald mcdonald 1

I am writing this week’s post from my room at The Ronald McDonald House in Dallas  Sadly, we had to admit my 7 year old son, Evan, into Children’s Medical Center last Monday.  After years of trying, we have been unable to find solutions that would help him.  I am praying we will find them here.  He will be here at least another month, which means we will celebrating the holidays in a much different way than I’d imagined.

Until now, my first thought associated with McDonald’s was, “Do you want fries with that?”  I will never think of McDonald’s the same way again.

The Ronald McDonald House is something I’ve heard of but not a place I ever thought I would stay.  After a few nights in a hotel and a very large bill, we knew we couldn’t sustain the cost.  So, we took a tour of the house and for all intents and purposes, we moved in.

This place is absolutely incredible.  I used to work at a resort, and it didn’t hold a candle to this place.  The rooms are on par with a 4-star hotel, there are three free warm meals served by volunteers each day.  There is a shuttle to take you to and from the hospital, a chapel, library, kids play area, teen play area, laundry facilities, a game room and gorgeous living areas on each floor. Everything is brand new because it was just rebuilt.   It is also only $15 a day, unless you cannot afford it, in which case you stay for free.  There are 60 rooms, and right now, they are full.  All of the families staying here have someone under the age of 18 who is seriously ill and in a nearby hospital.

I’m blown away by the kindness of everyone from the hospital staff to the dozens of volunteers that are at The Ronald McDonald House.    The families that I have met are amazing.  Some have children with cancer or other diseases, others have been here for months waiting for a transplant, and many are here for the same reason we are.

As you can imagine, this has been incredibly difficult, but it has also given me a different perspective and an opportunity to practice what I preach.  Here are the biggest lessons I’ve learned so far:

1. Be grateful. Even though this situation totally stinks, I am eternally grateful for a nice place to stay, a great team of doctors, and the ability to tuck Evan in, read him a book, and snuggle with him every night.  I’m grateful that my family and friends are so supportive, and I’m grateful they had an opening for Evan, as most of the programs similar to this have a waiting list.

2. Don’t Judge. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post that centered on being kind to people because you never know what they are going through.  I have a new appreciation for that now.  I can’t begin to stress it enough.  If you are blessed enough not to be going through a difficult time, consider it your responsibility to be kinder than necessary because there are many people who aren’t so blessed.

3. Find ways to laugh. This has been the most difficult experience of my entire life, but each day, there have been things to laugh about.  You have to or you will fall apart.  Look for humor in any situation.  Laughing might not take away the sadness, but it certainly helps you cope.

4.  Take care of yourself. I have had to learn to not only focus on Evan’s care, but my own as well.  I am making an effort to eat well, exercise, and get plenty of rest.  Evan needs me to be strong more than ever.  I also have to remember to give myself a break when I’m not getting as much work done as I’d like or feeling down.  All you can do is all you can do.

5. Have faith. That is what everyone keeps telling me, and I’ve come to the conclusion they are right.  I have prayed so long and hard for Evan’s recovery.  I have begged God to help him get better.  It might not be in the way I had hoped, but I have to believe that this is for some greater reason.  Sometimes, you have to throw up your hands, open your heart and have faith that things will work out.

6. People are amazing. There are only a few staff at the Ronald McDonald House.  The other dozens of people who keep it running are all volunteers.  People volunteer their time, their energy, and their kindness.  It warms my heart.  If you’ve ever started to question humanity, here’s your proof that people are inherently good.

7.  Speak Up. While I certainly don’t like sharing that my son is mentally ill, I also know that there are hundreds of other families struggling with similar situations in silence because they are too embarrassed to ask for help.  Mental illness is like any other illness.  You wouldn’t attach a stigma to someone getting treated for another disease. I learned recently that more money goes into dental education for children than for treating all mental illnesses combined.  There is a study that could potentially help Evan, but they can’t get the funding.  If people don’t speak up, mental illness will stay in the shadows. Visit www.nami.org to learn more.

Please take a moment to appreciate how lucky and blessed you are, and if you’re open to it, say a prayer for my little boy.  I will continue to keep you posted.

29 Comments

  1. Your family is in my prayers. Thank you for sharing your experience with others. But for the grace of God any of us could be in the same place as you. Your experience points out how trivial some of our frustrations are – slow traffic, long lines, etc. Thanks for the bigger perspective.

  2. I pray that God gives you the strength to see you through this difficult time and that Evan will find the help he needs. We stayed at the Ronald McDonald’s House after my sons open heart surgery over 11 years ago. You are right it is wonderful. If anyone is looking for a good cause to donate to – this is one (I know there are many others, but I think Ronald McDonald House may be overlooked at times).

  3. Anne,

    I’m praying fervently for Evan’s recovery (and I’m asking my prayer group – aka walking buddies – to pray, too). Thanks for sharing your perspective on the Ronald McDonald House. I’ve visited the Austin location, and it’s amazingly wonderful – to anyone who cares to make a donation to this organization (I just did!), here’s a link: https://www.rmhc-austin.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=298. Also, Anne – you and a couple of other friends whose children have mental illnesses have really raised my awareness about the illogical and unfair stigma attached to these types of difficulties. It’s time to shine the light of compassion – and research! – on those with mental illnesses!

    • Hi Julie,

      Thank you for sharing your positive experience of the Austin Ronald McDonald House – and thank you for your donation! It’s because of support like yours that families like Anne’s have a place to stay near the hospital when they need it most. We depend on donations from the community for over 85% of our funding, and we thank you on behalf of all the families who will benefit from this warm, comfortable space when their child is hospitalized in Austin.

      Jan Gunter
      Communications Manager
      Ronald McDonald House – Austin

  4. We’re holding Evan and you in prayer and in our thoughts. What a wonderful post. It gets to the heart of how, in circumstances that are scary and beyond our control, the only thing we can choose is our attitude – and that choice makes a tremendous difference. I’m so lucky to know you!

  5. Anne, I will add your family to my prayer list.
    The Ronald McDonald house near Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin enabled my neighbors to stay close to their children who were in critical care after a car accident. Since then, I no longer avoid McDonald’s restaurants, but will often stop for coffee or tea there and will donate my change into the receptacle, right there at the drive-thru window, for Ronald McDonald House. Every little bit helps.

    • Hi Carolyn,

      I’m so glad that your friends found the comfort and respite they needed at the Ronald McDonald House in Austin. Like Anne’s experience in Dallas, so many of our family’s say they never thought they would need the RMH until they found themselves in a very difficult situation and realized the RMH is indeed there for them. Thank you for donating your change at McDonald’s because last year that change turned into millions of dollars in the US – supporting families when they need it most.

      Jan Gunter
      Communications Manager
      Ronald McDonald House Charities – Austin

  6. Anne,
    You and your family are in my prayers. Thank you for sharing your experiences so that we may learn and pass it on. All the best to you.

  7. Anne,
    Of course, my heart just hurts as I read your entry. But, I am amazed by your outlook, sense of self preservation and your ability to share all of the dimensions of this experience.

    One of my favorite songs (by Amy Grant) begins with the words:
    “God loves a lullaby
    In a mothers tears in the dead of night
    Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.”

    It is a simple reminder that we honor Him when we call on him in times of sadness and fear. I can’t imagine the difficulty you are experiencing….I doubt anyone can….mental illness still has such a stigma so it just adds one more element to an already challenging circumstance.

    You, Evan and your family are in my prayers.

    Finally, I found this website this morning and I hope it might also bring some comfort.:

    http://www.jewishealing.com/healingprayer.html

  8. My prayers and thoughts go out to you, Evan, and your entire family. Childrens is a great place. Timothy II-4:7 “Run the race, Fight the Fight, Keep the Faith”. This was my wife’s strength dsuring her battle.
    I live close. If you need anything do not hesitate to call on me.

  9. Anne,
    You are a very courageous person. Thank you for your transparency about your feeling and the love and compassion you feel for Evan. I prayed for you and Evan when I received the communication. I will pray daily for you.
    I am also thankful that the McDonald House has provided such a wonderful service to you and your family. We have a huge God and He is able to do this we can only imagine,including speaking peace to our turbulent spirit.

  10. Anne – you and your family are in my prayers, that your courage and strength will be renewed daily! Sometimes the only reason I can fathom for such difficulties in life is so that the good works of others can be brought to light. You and Evan have shined a light on the good works of the Ronald McDonald House and given all of your readers a reason to reach out to God in your behalf – those are good things! Take care and God Bless!

  11. I am saddened by your situation as juxtaposed with numerable others in recent times that I have learned about. Prayer is a powerful tool. I’ll keep you in my thoughts as you hold a special place in my heart. Your weekly motivations are something to look forward to on Mondays and keep me walking down the right road. Your family is your strength and solace, as well as your teacher. May all the lessons you and your family have to learn be humbling and holy. I pray you find peace in this season of good will surrounded by your friends, family, and your loving support network of colleagues wishing you well. Keep the faith.

  12. Anne,
    I will add Evan, you and your family to my prayers and send this to my prayer family at work. I have only recently met you at a conference in Addison Tx. but have been blessed by your writings. When I went through cancer a few years ago I managed to lay it at God’s feet. He lifted me up everyday and took my worries on him. I cannot put myself in the place of having a sick child but I know with your apparent faith God will hold you and Evan close every day. Evan has been blessed to have such a loving and strong mom.

  13. Anne, thank you for sharing many of your personal/motivational stories with us! Today’s entry was really special as I could relate to the Ronald McDonald House experience. Although one doesn’t look forward to having to experience their kindness firsthand, it is comforting to know that they are there if needed! Unfortunately, my experience did not have a happy ending in that we lost my 3-yr old niece on Easter Sunday twenty years ago, but the comfort and kindness provided to my family was totally awesome! Please know that I will keep your son in my prayers and remember that Christmas is truly celebrated in our hearts, so it doesn’t matter that you won’t be able to celebrate a “traditional” Christmas this year – you are celebrating one with the true meaning of Christmas…love! Many blessings to you and your family!

  14. Anne,
    You and all your family are in my prayers. I know that times are tough for you and your family I am AMAZED and INSPIRED by your courage and outlook on life . You have always been able to give me words of encouragement, and ways to handle challenging situations, I am grateful to have you in my life. I am here for what ever you need! I love you and Evan very much!

  15. I’m so happy to hear that you found a place relatively close by for treatment. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I pray that this challenging time will lead to health, peace and happiness for all of you. You amaze me with your strength. Hold on to that positive outlook!

  16. Anne,
    You and your family are in my thoughts. Your willingness to share truly is an inspiration and causes me to focus on the good all around. Thank you. May your generosity return to you one-hundred fold.

  17. Anne:
    Little Evan is blessed to have a Mommy that is so dedicated to his health and future. When all of this is behind you, and it will be, you will find even more blessings to count. Thanks for sharing your pain, love, and blessings. I will continue to pray for Evan, you and your family.

  18. Anne –
    Please know I am praying for not only Evan but you and your family as well. You are incredibly strong – I have not only learned from you in class but to continue to look up and look at all there is to be grateful for, not the small, small things that always get the focus. Thank you for all your lessons.

  19. Thank you all more than you know for your kind words, support, and prayers. I can’t tell you how much it means to me. Every time I got to read a new comment yesterday, I got a huge smile on my face. It’s so nice to know there are so many people pulling for us. I am on my way to the hospital to visit Evan now and will continue to keep you posted.

    Again, thank you. thank you. thank you.

    Anne

  20. Anne,
    you and you familly are in my thoughts and prayers.
    i feel the strength thru your words and it gives me hope for all things are possible when we go deep inside ourselves and find the love we have for all.
    Evan has been blessed to have such a strong and loving mom

  21. Anne, I first came across your story at work. Someone posted it with no mention as to where they got it from. I am not an emotional guy at all, but as I was reading it, my eyes filled with tears! Your story cracked my tortoise shell, dont know why, maybe because I also have a little boy named Evan, and realized how fortunate we are to be in good health and take that for granted more than we think. If only all mankind had the same courage and perspective on life as you do! Its so much easier to be weak and just give up sometimes. Your words of wisdom I believe is an inspiration to all! I googled key words untill I found your blog and I am now a subscriber. Keep up the good work, continue to have faith and stay strong! You, Evan, and your family are in my prayers, God Bless!

  22. Hi Anne,
    I’ve read your posts before, and have to say, always find them uplifting as well as enlightening. You truely have a way of touching the heart with your words and insights.

    This story about your son in no exception, and I wish that I could send you the kind of love, support, encouragement and hope that you inspire in your stories, about your situation. I do beleive that because of your outlook, the caring generosity I find conveyed in your words and that you encourage in all your shares, I believe that you can master the test your son is putting you through. Infact you are already doing it…by being there for him, loving and accepting him the way he is and for who is…and that has to pay off some time or another. In the meantime, I’m sending you a much love, support and light as I can. And I hope you keep sharing yours with the world. Have the happiest holidays possible.

    Shirley

  23. Anne–I wish you and your family all the best for Evan’s treatment and for you all to get through this likely very stressful time. I’m glad to hear that the Ronald McDonald House is everything I’ve heard it was and that you and your farmily are able to stay there.

    Your words are a beacon to guide one’s life by, especially the advice to be kinder than necessary. I don’t always remember to do that, but it is an excellent thing to practice. Evan is lucky to have a mother like you.

    *Hugs*

    Chantal

  24. Greetings,
    It is what it is. You have the most important ‘thing’…you are there to care for your child. Please know…I will never understand but I do care. Please know all I can do is pray for your family. Keep the faith because that is all I have and I offer it to you. May you have a sound night sleep so you have enery to start again.

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