Last week I overheard this brief exchange in the kitchen:
Mother (holding a toddler): I honestly didn’t bring her any socks. I didn’t think we’d be staying overnight…
Staff Member: I can go check our clothes closet…
Another Mother (interrupting): Oh, don’t worry! We have plenty of socks. You can have some of ours!
After nearly 14 years, I shouldn’t be surprised by such interactions, which aren’t unusual. Yet each time they amaze and inspire and encourage me—as if I’m observing a rare occurrence for the first time.
As I often explain to visitors, we have incredible staff members, volunteers, and donors, who assist guests in remarkable ways. But the real magic at our Ronald McDonald Houses is what happens between families—strangers united by their children’s medical challenges, who bond almost instantly, and who provide each other constant solace and support.
I’m reminded of the old tale, Stone Soup—a story of three hungry soldiers returning from war who convince an entire town (whose residents claim to have no food) that they can make soup from a stone. The soldiers’ audacious claim evokes widespread curiosity among the suspicious townsfolk—and slowly but surely, meat and vegetables begin appearing from supposedly-empty pantries and cellars. Eventually, a huge pot is full and everyone enjoys a memorable meal—including the clever soldiers, who continue their journey on full stomachs!
The difference here: no ruse is necessary. Our residents—albeit temporary ones, who bear their own considerable challenges—are naturally inclined to help each other. One mother offers children’s socks to another without hesitation. And that inclination is acted upon daily.
It is quite special, actually—every time it occurs. And it’s an extraordinary feast for anyone fortunate enough to be near.
Tom Soma, Executive Director