With only one hair-raising experience -- on the exit from Highway 21 North to Highway 14 West toward Edmonton -- and a lovely pit-stop at Lori's Country Cottage to unwind by fondling fabric -- I made it to my daughter's on time yesterday afternoon. After a light supper she drove us over to the Royal Alberta Museum, where the biennial "Hope and Harmony" fundraiser for GRIT was being held.
It was a lovely evening. On view for the secret/silent auctions was interesting and diverse artwork - most of the pieces by children currently in the program; glorious floral arrangements; and donations which included a signed Edmonton Oilers jersey and a fully-stocked motorized wine cooler. I bought a ticket on the Ladies' Indulgence Package -- over $2,500 worth of items and passes to experiences sure to please any woman's heart. But for a count of 9, I'd have won it, too! (Mine: 348354; hers: 348363. Sigh.)
In between the champagne reception, complete with delectable Japanese-style savouries, and the coffee and dessert, we were entertained by wonderful musicians -- including 11-year-old GRIT alumna, Claudia Wong, who wowed us on the piano; pianist and Alberta Music Festival top prize-winner, David Fraser; the popular local trio, Tenor Power (Lary Benson, Dan Rowley and Jerry Pravicini) accompanied by pianist Marlis Gunderson; and singer-songwriter Martin Kerr, accompanied by saxophonist Kyle Swenson and, on one song, by Jayne Yuill, a GRIT staff member, interpreting the lyrics in sign language.
In between the musical performances were inspiring stories from a member of each of two GRIT families -- one alumni and one current student -- complete with photographic montages on the big screen.
This morning I find myself pondering their stories...and being struck in particular by two thoughts:
Public faces, private lives: the stories of 'hope and harmony' are only half the picture. Life isn't always sunshine and lollipops; what about hearing some of the hard truths and tough times that go on behind closed doors in the families touched by the challenges of chronic illness and disability of one or more children (or family members). It's indeed tough to share these with folks while you are celebrating success and asking for financial support. This was true of my DH, too, who stopped attending the 'Walk for the Cure' for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation as complications of his illness set in with a vengeance. He said he didn't want to scare the children who had Type 1 Diabetes -- or their families -- with the sight of his lost legs, the catheter in his neck for hemodialysis, or his bent, stiffened fingers reaching out to shake hands.
In our culture, as Martin Kerr put it last night, we worship beauty and perfection -- neither of which exist 100% of the time in any family, and never have. Marriage partners -- and offspring -- have become yet another consumer item; if you're dissatisfied with the ones you have, why not exchange them for newer, shinier, more perfect models, designed to give you those perfect family experiences you never had growing up.
Without a programme like GRIT, the families of these very challenged children stand a very good chance of joining the ranks of the disintegrated.
Every Family needs a GRIT programme -- figuratively speaking, that is. Parents whose children are part of such a programme by virtue of serious disability are given the best tools possible for life with and around their challenged children. But what of those parents of "normal" children, who go into parenthood -- as they have for millennia -- armed with only recollections of their own up-bringing, for good or for ill, and the blame laid on them by so-called experts, including educators, social services, governments and religious institutions and later, by their own children, for being ineffective and awkward?
Instead, wouldn't it be great if we had a gentle, positive,
encouraging programme like GRIT available as we embarked on our
I am as guilty of criticizing my parents, as my children are of criticizing me -- both privately, between each other, and to my face. It's said that with age comes wisdom -- well, at least sometimes. Certainly as I look back, I have begun to understand my parents and myself -- and our family dynamics -- much better than I did when in the thick of growing up -- and I know that I know that I know that they -- like their parents before them and like my husband and I -- did not set out to deliberately stifle, warp or otherwise negatively influence our children. I believe that loving parents do try to do the best for their kids, with whatever knowledge and skill hey can muster, coming out of whatever background experience they have, and going through whatever current challenges Life throws at them.
There is -- and will likely continue to be -- anger, fear, anxiety, insecurity, sorrow, ignorance, and prejudice in the mix. There are preconceived ideas, loft goals and expectations, and idealizations. And there is pride, joy, hope and love. Always love.
Hurting people hurt people, as Joyce Meyer often says, and we all, at various times and seasons of life, hurt within and without. But there is hope in the hurting, and you can't have one without the other. Only out of deep sorrow, the death of the perfect and the acceptance of the genuine (imperfect), can one find God's grace and with it, fullness of joy.