One thing that I have been acutely aware of since I was a small child is that those who are blessed should do all they can to be a blessing to others. This is something that I always tried to teach my own children, and it’s something I have kept in mind my entire life.
My wife, Shannon, shares this belief, and has one of the most generous spirits of anyone I know. A while back, Shannon had the idea of giving homeless people backpacks filled with items for their basic needs. I thought it was a great idea, so it’s something we do from time to time to help those in need.
I understand that homelessness is incredibly devastating. So I know that our distributing backpacks to homeless people in our community does not solve their greater problem of needing a place they can call home, but it’s just one way that Shannon and I are able to directly give to people in our community.
One day, as Shannon and I were about to deliver backpacks, she said, “Mark, we should make sure to ask people their names.” It was such a simple statement, but so thought provoking. The people we encounter on any given outing are indeed someone’s brother or sister, friend … some mother’s child. But we didn’t ask questions when we were handing out the backpacks. Our hearts and intentions were good and we wanted to help, but we didn’t want to intrude on their personal space or pride.
It had never occurred to me how meaningful it might be to simply ask their names. That day for the first time, however, we did, and the first couple we met made the most lasting impression on us. We introduced ourselves and then asked their names, and just recalling the look on their faces gives me chill bumps. First, there was complete and obvious shock and then appreciation that we’d simply acknowledged them as we would any new person we encounter. We learned their names were Sarah and John, but beyond that, we realized how such a small gesture was really the simplest, most respectful thing we could have done.
I know many of you volunteer year-round and especially through the holidays, helping others. So I know you’re already showing thanks for your blessings in ways that impact so many. But sometimes I think it’s important to remember that how we give, care and serve is often much greater that what we give. That’s true whether we’re serving in the community or caring for our families at Texas Children’s.
I hope that you will remember that – and think of Sarah and John – every time you enter a patient room or an elevator or walk through the hospital, crossing the paths of our patients and their families. Every one deserves respectful acknowledgement. It only takes a moment and a simple question or two. Just ask – and then really listen. You have no idea how thankful someone may be for your kindness.
With much gratitude, I wish you all a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.