Monday, June 10, 2013

Busier than Chuck Norris doing nothing

I have been very busy as we prepare to go to New York.  I lived south of the Mason-Dixon for a spell, and there are many colorful expressions that I could insert here.  However, as most of them begin with "busier than a one armed or one legged," I am understandably reluctant to use them. I will forgo such comparisons. Brent thought this was wise.
In conversation with the boys about this, I suggested that they come up with a "Busier than Chuck Norris..." joke. I asked them what sort of activity would keep Chuck Norris busy.
Brent replied instantly, hardly looking up from his game. "Nothing.  Nothing keeps Chuck Norris busy, mom.  He is Chuck Norris!" Funny kid. 
So, I will just leave it simply: It is a hectic time of year as school winds down, and Brent and I plan to be gone for many weeks, which requires a great deal of preparation. 
But overall, it has been wonderful and good.  I thought that I would share Friday's caringbridge here, where it is probably more appropriate.
We Ramers have been busy, and blessed.  Since we have been back from New York, Brent has enjoyed a fantastic end of the school year. There were next to no medical trips (only one precautionary visit to the ER)  Brent has been in 'full on' kid mode, and loving it.
There were many visits with friends and a host of Kick-it events that Brent was able to go to and enjoy with his friends. (Car wash, bake sale, head shaving, Ramernation soccer scrimmage, teacher dunk tank, a car show, lemonade stand...I am sure that I am forgetting something else here that he did...)  I would say that this was a fun raiser, more than a fund raiser, except for how it all ended.
Yesterday was the last day of school and is historically the grand finale for the annual Kick-it event where the money is tallied and the total revealed. The kids had set a goal of raising $25,000 in the month of May.  They have done this the previous 3 years, amazingly enough.  When I checked in earlier this week, it seemed like it was going to be close.  But I am so proud of these children, because they surpassed their goal, and raised $31,500 for pediatric cancer, bringing the 4 year total to $108,000.  


I believe that the education that our children receive in Brecksville is exemplary.  I have never worried about whether my children would be academically prepared for college, which is a large part of the reason that we decided to move here.  Back in the day, I was a teacher, and I actually substituted in this school district.  I saw the lesson plans that the teachers left behind.  I was impressed with the academic expectations.
But beyond that, as a substitute, you are potentially at an extreme disadvantage, not knowing most of the students names, and traveling sporadically from building to building. However, I had high school students here remember me from earlier in the week, approach me in the hallway between classes, address my by name, and inquire of my current assignment...departing with a pleasant goodbye and "See you 6th period!"  Really. This happened all the time.
So when Dan and I were selecting a community, we were naturally interested in the schools.  I remembered the culture here as one of kindness, consideration and as I have since learned, extreme compassion.  

While the book stuff here is great, I feel more strongly about this atmosphere of compassion and action within the community, which the Kick It  campaign exemplifies.  With some guidance and encouragement from their teachers, particularly Maria Schneider (who is just incredible, btw) the kids come up with ideas, organize plans and execute them.  

In the process, they discover their collective power to affect good. Through many small efforts they learn that if they coordinate their energy to a common goal, they can accomplish great things and achieve truly meaningful results, evidenced by the impressive check forwarded to Kick It every May.
But this year, in surpassing their goal, Maria asked the founder of Kick It, if the funds raised might be directed in a way that would be meaningful in a more direct and tangible way to these kids, who are familiar with Brent's struggle.  Rather than the funds going to an unnamed pediatric cancer study, they are all being directed to research on metastatic osteosarcoma, in Brent's honor.

When she announced this at the rally yesterday, I wept.

Some talk of the damage that can be inflicted by bullying, that 'children can be so cruel.'  I have no doubt that this can be true.  
But this has never been our experience.  I would like to focus on the enormous capacity for kindness, compassion and coordinated positive action that our youth have demonstrated in a big way for four years in row now during the month of May.  And throughout the rest of the year, in somewhat quieter ways.
This is not something that will help them on their SAT or other standardized testing.  But this life lesson will carry with them and might be applied to other worthy causes that they feel passionately about.  We, along with the other families in Brecksville that have children struggling with cancer naturally feel passionately about pediatric  cancer research.  But the lesson applies to many anything.
I walked through the hallway of a school for parent teacher night or some such thing once.  The dreams and goals of the kids displayed on the walls with colorful pictures seemed idealistic and lofty: End War, Solve Homelessness, Feed the World, Clean up the Earth, Cure Cancer.

Big, complicated problems, all absolutely worthy of the effort, but such that you almost don't know where to begin.  Most of us don't begin.

These kids rolled up their sleeves and got started with one that affects some of their own.  I am feeling more optimistic about the potential with regards to the rest of those dreams.  Makes me want to pass out the construction paper, crayons and glitter, because they are learning to create their own world, one that they would want to live in.

We leave Tuesday for MSKCC.  Brent will have surgery on Thursday, which will be a big surgery, and just the first.  While this is going to be hard, and we will be gone for a long time, we carry the support of this community with us, which has been so wonderful, and a blessing that I am very, very grateful for.

Much love, 


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