I guess it all stems from my childhood. Remembering the example my parents had set for me, my brother and my sister. My father was a volunteer paramedic with our local first aid squad in addition to being a full time police officer. My mother always donated her time to a variety of charities throughout my childhood. Both of my parents always helped out...whether it was organizing blood drives, raising money for a good cause or a family in need, knitting hats for babies in the NICU, cleaning up local parks...my parents always gave back. And brought us as kids with them, teaching us first hand about paying it forward. It was just something they did and continue to do today.
I recently spent a Sunday afternoon with my twin mom friends volunteering at SOVA, a local food pantry that provides free groceries to more than 12,000 individuals each month. We spent the afternoon organizing the food that was donated to SOVA into boxes, preparing them to be shipped or given to any local families that needed help. These local families include parents that don't have jobs, some homeless, families where both parents work but perhaps don't make enough money to put food on the table. You get the idea. We actually boxed over 2000 lbs of food, literally a TON.
The friends I speak of are the same friends that volunteered with me at Operation Gratitude, an organization that ships care packages to the US military deployed in hostile regions. The same friends that gave blood at the Cedars Sinai blood drive I organized almost a year ago, two days post heart transplant for Kevin. The same friends that donated over 250 children's books with me to Cedars Sinai children's ward in honor of the doctors & nurses that saved Kevin's life.
Ya know the drive home from SOVA last week really hit me. Tears running down my face. It got me thinking about when Kevin first came home with the LVAD, just a couple of days before Thanksgiving. The first thing we saw when we entered the house was a potted rosemary plant with a piece of paper attached to it that read:
"This is a thanks giving tree - planted and nourished by all of your friends. We are all so thankful for your friendship. Thankful that Kevin is on the mend and home. Thankful for life. Thankful that we can lend a helping hand. This giving tree will continue to bear fruit. You may have already received a few of its fruits in the mail, or delivered to your doorstep, over the past few days. More fruit is on its way. We hope you have a super fantastic Thanksgiving together as a family, under one roof. We love you!"
Attached to the giving tree were about two dozen gift cards to grocery stores and gas stations. And we must've received two dozen more by mail. Kevin and I didn't have to worry about putting food on the table for almost three months. It enabled us to focus on his recovery and discovering our new normal.
So on that drive home from the food pantry last week, it made me realize that my little family of four was on the receiving end of my friends' decision to pay it forward. How unbelievably grateful we were then and how unbelievably grateful we are today.
And again it all stems from my childhood. My parents have influenced me so much that doing the right thing just comes natural. I'm hoping that Kevin and I have the same influence on our boys.
So what does paying it forward have to do with living post transplant? Let's just say it's given me direction.