Goodness Defies the Odds

Goodness Defies the Odds

From A 4th Course of Chicken Soup for the Soul

Goodness Defies the Odds

It is raining still.. .. Maybe it is not one of those showers that is here one minute and gone the next, as I had so boldly assumed. Maybe none of them are. After all, life in itself is a chain of rainy days. But there are times when not all of us have umbrellas to walk under. Those are the times when we need people who are willing to lend their umbrellas to a wet stranger on a rainy day. I think I’ll go for a walk with my umbrella.

Sun-Young Park

She opened the letter as she strolled up the driveway from the mailbox. As she finished the first paragraph she stopped in her tracks, unable to focus because of the tears in her eyes. After a few seconds, she lifted her head toward the perfect sky and, for a brief, wonderful moment, she could hear her son singing his favorite song.

In the house, she put the mail down and called her husband at the store where he worked to tell him what had just arrived. At first, he was speechless, trying awkwardly to collect his emotions and having some difficulty.

“Read it to me,” the husband said.

She spoke softly and slowly, savoring each word. When she finished, neither said anything for a long time until, finally, the husband declared: “There really is a God.”

Eighteen months ago, they were living at Children’s Hospital in Boston. Their nine-year-old son had been diagnosed with cancer. As if that weren’t enough, the father had just been laid off by a high-tech company that was surviving only by “downsizing,” a 1990s word for unemployment. Like many people affected by such management decisions, the layoff was an economic death sentence to the household. His wife was a library clerk. In addition to their son, there were three other children, girls ages seven, five and two.

Cancer is the most vicious of diseases, consuming the cells of a victim’s body without discrimination. It has no conscience either, striking the very young and the very innocent as well as those much older who at least have managed to see and taste a larger slice of life.

Day after day, both parents took turns at the hospital with their sick boy. The doctors and nurses were wonderful and heroic as they managed to evoke smiles and optimism from those so wounded by the bitter reality of their illness.

Their son struck up a friendship with another boy on the floor, a 10-year-old who—like him—loved baseball. And on those dreamy summer nights when the Olde Towne Team was home, the two of them sat by a window on an upper floor in a hospital ward and listened to games on the radio as they looked at the lights of the ballpark off in the distance, washing across the July sky like some brilliant Milky Way all their own.

These two sick children became thick as thieves, joined by their passion for the Red Sox along with the anchor of their cancer. Naturally, their parents became friends, too.

The other boy was from Connecticut. His parents were trust-fund wealthy, but even their affluence could not insulate them from the cargo of grief that attaches itself to anyone with a wounded child.

So, this boy’s mother and father were deeply touched when the parents of the nine-year-old presented both boys with Red Sox jackets and two baseballs signed by Mo Vaughn.

We are a land of baseball and miracles and progress, but none of it can impede the nearly inevitable curse of cancer. And so it was that the nine-year-old died on a clear, crisp fall day when his favorite game had long fallen silent from a strike. The combination of hospitalization and unemployment had nearly bankrupted the family, yet they had to fight on for their three surviving children.

But every day was like carrying a load of bricks up some steep, never-ending hill. The only job the father found was at a variety store while his wife simply could not return to work. And on the morning she stopped in her tracks, letter in hand, their home was on the verge of foreclosure as she read that first paragraph.

We will never forget the kindness you showed our son at Children’s. God moves in mysterious ways. We are so fortunate. Our son is doing well. We heard about your difficulty from a nurse and want you to accept what we have sent. Your son gave a lot to our son. We think about him every day and we still hear his beautiful voice singing his favorite song, “The Star Spangled Banner,” when we watch the Red Sox. You gave to us. Now it is time for our family to give in re turn. May Godbless you.

They had enclosed $10,000. It is the kind of generous gesture, one wounded couple to another, forged forever at

the edge of a gentle sadness.

Mike Barnicle

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