For the fourth year in a row my son Miles is shaving his head.
This is one brave kid.
Every year, it makes me cringe. He’s going to look very different. People are going to stare. His head is going to get cold. These are the worries of an overprotective parent.
Despite my worries, I am extremely proud of him. It takes guts to stand up for something you believe and to help others by sacrificing something of yourself. But he does it, every year. I am humbled. I couldn’t do it.
He shaves his head to raise awareness and money for childhood cancer research. It is astonishing that only a mere 4% of the National Cancer Institute’s budget is dedicated towards treating and finding a cure for cancer in kids. How on earth does this make sense?! Cancer treatment for kids are very different than for adults and yet little is being done about it.
When Miles learned of this four years ago, he was saddened. He had never met a kid with cancer but he couldn’t understand how so little is done for these kids. When he learned there was something he could about it, he jumped at the chance.
His mom and I weren’t so excited about it at first but our then 11 year-old was quite determined. He always has been that way. Once he makes up his mind, he is determined to move forward. While he was asking for permission, we realized he was really just letting us know what he was going to do.
The experience was transformative for all of us. He was so excited to do it and we were so proud to watch him do something he felt passionate about. He raised several thousand dollars that year and has raised a couple thousand each year after that, nearly $10,000 in total. It’s a pretty good chunk of change for a little hair.
This Saturday, March 14, he will be shaving his hair. He would be grateful if you can donate here. If you can’t donate, leave a message of encouragement or support in the comments. He loves to hear it!
As always, other kids will look at him funny or tease him for his bald head after this weekend. He doesn’t mind. It gives him a chance to tell them about the lack of research funds for kids with cancer.
Like I said, this is one brave kid.
The sign taped to the door read, “Please keep this door closed!”
I knocked. There was no answer. Taking a deep breath, I cautiously pushed open the door.
All the lights in the room were off but there was plenty of daylight coming through the window to see him. He was propped up in the bed, sleeping comfortably. I considered whether or not to wake me but I was given this responsibility so I had to try. Several feet inside the door, I quietly spoke his name. He didn’t stir, so I started to back out of the room. Suddenly his eyes shot open and he frantically searched for the sound that had awakened him.
I caught his eyes and said, “Hi. I am Al Watts from St. Patrick’s. I have communion if you’d like to receive.”
He stared at me for a second trying to comprehend the words I spoke. A smile then formed on his face as he nodded and said, “Oh, please.”
I squirted hand sanitizer on my hands from the bottle on the wall and rubbed them together as I approached him. He felt around in his sheets and pulled out a rosary which he held firmly in his hands.
I said the prayers and then placed the communion host in his hand. He took the host into his mouth and closed his eyes, likely saying a private prayer to himself.
As I went back to the hand sanitizer on the wall, he said to me, beaming, “You made my day. God be with you.” Rubbing hand sanitizer on my hands I replied, “God bless you,” and left his room, remembering to close the door behind me.
I never know why the people I visit in the hospital are there. They certainly need healing of some kind or another. Once a month I bring communion to them, part of a team of parishioners who come each day to visit patients in the hospital. It is among the most joyous things I do. I get to see God work.
Before I began this ministry, I always pray that the Lord give me the words to say and that He bring healing. I believe whatever I say to the patients is what God wants them to hear. Then, when I give communion, I see a weight seem fall off of them and a brightness come to their eyes, no matter their ailment. It is an incredible experience to witness.
Catholics believe that the host, the unleavened bread consecrated by a priest, is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. We believe that when we receive communion, we are consuming Christ and that He is coming into our body. Most other Christian denominations believe the unleavened bread is only a symbol of Christ’s body, not Christ himself.
It’s a hard concept to wrap your brain around and one I did not fully understand until I began bringing communion to patients at a nearby hospital. Seeing the transformation patients undergo gives me no doubt Christ is truly in the communion host.
But their joy of receiving the Lord is not the only joy in that moment. I feel fulfilled as well. In fact, I feel like I am maybe receiving more healing than the patient.
I have found that helping others helps me too, maybe more. For most of my adult life, I have served others as a stay at home father, a leader in a non-profit organization and in this ministry providing communion. In all of these experiences I have felt fulfilled in a way I never imagined when I was younger, imaging my life as a successful businessman.
It shouldn’t be surprising to any of us. Christ told us as much in Luke 6:38, “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down and overflowing…”
Service is healing to the receiver and the giver. It’s what makes the world a better place and I am grateful to do my part.
Originally published 2/19/2010 on Momaha.com
"If the FBI ever fingerprints him, he'll be guilty of something," my dad said.
You see, our 2nd child, Miles, has an unbelievable amount of curiosity, and that's putting it nicely. He has to touch E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G!!! As we’re telling him to stop touching this thing, he is already touching that thing. He's obsessed!
This quality has earned him a lot of nicknames. All of our kids have nicknames, but Miles has more than all of them combined. Probably the one that describes him best is “Stitch,” as in the alien creature from the Disney movie “Lilo and Stitch.” If you recall, in the movie Lilo says that “Stitch destroys everything he touches.” That pretty much describes Miles.
A perfect example of how his nickname came about was when he was two and we were visiting my parents for the holidays. My parents have a beautiful home that is for adults.
It is a perfect place for Stitch.
Mom has all kinds of cute trinkets on coffee tables, end tables, desks...everywhere. And the best (or worst) part is that they were just at Stitch's level. Of course he obliged by touching E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G!!!
"Get out of there!" I hollered. "Quit that!" I yelled. "Will you stop touching that!" I implored. Too late, he'd already touched something else.
Then it happened - he got hurt.
He grabbed a snow globe off an end table that was too heavy for him to lift. It fell, landing right on his big toe and then breaking into a hundred pieces. He screamed. At first I thought the glass had cut him, but he wasn't bleeding. He kept on screaming. Something must have really been hurting because Stitch rarely cried more than a minute when he got hurt.
That’s when I noticed his big toe. It was black. And it was getting swollen. I grabbed a bag of peas out of the freezer and put it on his toe. After he stopped crying I turned to my dad and said "I should probably take him to the doctor tomorrow morning.”
"But he only cried for about 5 minutes. It must not hurt that bad," my dad said.
"Yeah, but he has NEVER cried that long." I guess a good bit of toughness is needed if you’re going to be overly curious.
So the next morning we went to the doctor and thankfully he determined that his toe wasn't broken. "I can poke a hole in his toe to relieve the swelling, but he won't like it. Besides, with some ibuprofen, it probably won't bother him for long."
We decided not to do the toe poke and, sure enough, the doctor was right. Stitch was back to touching E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G as soon as we got back to my parent's house.
I opened a savings account for his FBI legal defense fund that afternoon.