“I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”
- William Faulkner
I’ve been cleaning out my office the past few weeks. I can’t believe all the old files—hundreds of pounds that should have been shredded long ago.
Photos evoke cherished memories. Jason King, the 13-year-old cancer patient who met me at the door on my first day in February of 1999, popping a wheelie in his wheelchair. Goldie in her long gold wig; Teah in her track uniform; Princeton and Wade making a Tom sandwich; and separate shots of Thomson and Chloe, each with me, taken about eight years apart—the latter clearly evidencing my receding hairline. I just packed an angelic portrait of Chuck Carter, which has graced my desk since his passing in October, 2012. But I’ll wait another day or two before boxing the eight-by-ten glossy of Ronald McDonald and me at our 2011 golf tournament.
Two folders overflow with letters from guests (adults and children alike, some with drawings), praising the care they received. While each is uniquely elegant and specific, all echo a common theme: “We couldn’t have made it without the people here.” A single line—penned by a guest during my first year—remains the most profound, if only for its elegant brevity: “The Ronald McDonald House is a working model of grace and generosity.”
Then there are all my notes—overheard phrases, compelling quotes, and dozens of ideas for future musings scribbled on yellow and green and blue and purple and pink sticky notes. So much inspiration—so little time.
Each day, the Ronald McDonald House® brings into focus what’s truly important. These musings have been an attempt to “make sense of it all”—to sort and integrate what I’ve had the privilege to observe. In another way—eloquently captured by William Faulkner in his 1949 Nobel Prize acceptance speech—the weekly reflections have been a means of celebrating the “honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice” that can help us not only endure, but prevail.
In 2012, 24 of my favorite musings, along with nine guest portraits taken by award-winning photographer, Bob Ray, became the book, No Small Thing. In June, NewSouth Books will publish a second collection. Entitled The Secret Ingredient, it marries 31 recent musings with the photography of Bob Ray and Aaron Hewitt. In addition to generating sales revenue for RMHC, I hope the new book serves as both pillar and prop for those who carry on the Charity’s daily work.
Next Monday, Jessica Jarratt Miller assumes the helm as our new CEO. Six weeks later, I’ll set out in my RV on a year-long journey around the United States to work on another book. I invite you to participate in that adventure at www.lookingforgodinamerica.com. I’ll continue to share “sights and insights” there—and I hope you’ll reciprocate.
For now, I echo the noble assurance of Brian Andreas, the creator of StoryPeople® who I’ve quoted often in the past. “I promise you,” he declares,
“not a moment will be lost as long as I have heart and voice to speak, and we will walk again together with a thousand others and a thousand more and on and on until there is no one among us who does not know the truth: there is no future without love.”
The legacy we share and future we anticipate at RMHC are equally bright—because both are so remarkably full of love. May we continue to celebrate and extend that most precious gift.
With abiding gratitude and best wishes,
Tom Soma, Executive Director