After trauma, I am grateful for everyday heroes

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A few months ago, something terrible happened.

In early September, my son and I were suddenly and violently attacked by three dogs, about a minute after my 7-year-old Noah stepped off his school bus. With his forehead ripped open, Noah had to undergo emergency plastic surgery. He spent two days at Levine Children’s Hospital, where he began the long road to physical and psychological healing. I was also injured while trying to protect him— my arm and leg punctured by the powerful jaws of the attacking dogs—but my heart is what hurt the most.

Despite the range of feelings we experienced, from fear and anger to sadness and anxiety, this traumatic incident also reminded me of humankind’s profound ability to do good.

So many people—friends, family, and strangers —have reached out to us to help.

There are good people out there, everyday heroes who make a huge difference. Sometimes it’s a professional calling, people who have made rescue and healing part of their daily lives. But just as often it is someone who makes an extra effort to do something kind, generous, and restorative.

Fred Rogers, the beloved children’s TV host, summed up these types of heroes well: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

Thinking back on this challenging autumn, there are an extraordinary number of helpers to whom I want to express my gratitude. They have given me hope for a better world—people of all backgrounds, differing politics, from preschool aged kids to 95 year olds. Their instinct to do good reassures and reminds me that each of us has within us the capacity to help, heal, and improve the world.

We will never forget what people have done for us during this difficult time and I intend to pay it forward for the rest of my life: in daily actions, in choosing to do and help rather than shake my head in frustration; in reaching out when there is a need.

Do not believe anyone who says your actions don’t matter or can’t make a difference. They do. They can change the world—starting with the very first person you reach out to help.

I am grateful for…

  • 14368658_10157321205435417_3831717987397763119_nThe man who appeared on our doorstep, offering his tickets so Noah could see his first Carolina Panthers game
  • The custodial worker who loaned her cell phone charger to my husband in the ER  
  • The Child Life Specialists who eased Noah’s worry before each new step—sewing stitches on the forehead of a stuffed toy alligator to cuddle, showing Noah how to spray Mama and Papa with syringes filled with water, giving him a certificate of bravery when he had to return to the ER for rabies immunizations 14225556_10157268366100417_7244498196059035147_n
  • The bus driver who gave Noah a heartfelt card and gift, sharing her own worry and sorrow over what had happened, and who ensures his safe arrival home with such love each day 
  • The hospital chaplains who held my hand and listened 
  • The dear friends who saw a need and jumped into action organizing meals and funds to help with medical expenses 
  • The firemen who came by a week later to check on Noah and invited him to tour the firehouse when he felt better  
  • Friends, family, and strangers who sent cards, emails, texts, and messages of encouragement 
  • Those who sent Legos, puzzles, magic tricks, books and more to help Noah recover 
  • 14237743_10157282649700417_8798556737170770263_nThe paramedics who showed such calm and reassured Noah at the height of his pain and panic 
  • The Missouri school teacher and her students at the French immersion school who heard about what happened and sent Noah a care package full of well wishes and gifts 
  • Folks who appeared on our doorstep with cookies, gifts for the kids, and soup 
  • Friends and strangers who thoughtfully sent notes and gifts for Noah’s 4-year-old brother Matéo too 14355792_10157302199265417_4270704502750235806_n
  • Our caring pediatrician and her staff who supported us immeasurably and even made a house call
  • Friends who told us how important self-care would be and offered support in multiple ways
  • My sister and brother who dropped everything to come help
  • An elderly woman who saw Noah’s story on the news and sent him a care package filled with superhero mementos
  • A school counselor and school psychologist who went above and beyond, visiting Noah at home and ensuring his positive readjustment to school 
  • Handmade cards from Noah’s schoolmates as well as from other local kids 
  • 14269753_10155171614135410_1676238903_nThe Animal Control Officer who stayed with us at the hospital, long after his shift ended, to ensure our safety and the police officers we never met who scoured the surrounding neighborhoods for the attacking dogs 
  • Friends who sat with us in the hospital and made sure we ate something
  • Neighbors who sprang into action—on the scene and in the days that followed
  • Reporters who showed compassion
  • Friends who helped with childcare in our most challenging hours
  • A principal who called Noah at the hospital
  • Nurses who eased Noah’s worry (as well as our own) and made him comfortable during his hospital stay 
  • 20160912_165043Teachers who came to visit, called Noah, read to him, and checked on our family repeatedly
  • A surgeon whose superior technical skill was matched by his ability to relate and empathize with his patient and parents 
  • Cousins, aunts, uncles, and dear friends who reached out from across the US and around the globe
  • Mental health professionals who have helped us stay afloat and progress
  • Those who lovingly prepared meals and sent gift cards, cleaned our house, or did our laundry 
  • Our parents who ran errands, sent thoughtful gifts, entertained the children, gave hugs from near or far, and provided shoulders for us to lean upon

We are forever grateful for your acts of kindness.

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The view from Stars Hallow

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The baristas are wearing plaid and the place is filled with giddy, over-caffeinated fans looking for Luke, Lorelai, and Rory. They’re also scanning the place for any piece of memorabilia to prove they were here — at one of the 200 “Luke’s Diners” — that have popped up in Charlotte and across the nation today in a creative nod to Gilmore Girls, the beloved TV series from the early 2000s. (The promotional push comes from Netflix who will be airing new reunion episodes later this month.)

Mugs Coffee, my regular neighborhood coffee joint, has been transformed overnight by a sign, the promise of free coffee, and a crowd of nostalgic, bubbly fans. (Poor Luke would be out of his mind trying to stifle all that unbridled enthusiasm…)

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One woman just dug through the trashcan to find a limited edition Gilmore Girls paper coffee cup sleeve as a memento. Others are going table to table to see if they can swipe one from an unsentimental coffee drinker who may not be a fan of the show. It’s hard to find one here.

What fun to imagine just for a few moments that we’ve walked into Stars Hollow, that idyllic little town full of quirky personalities, where parents and kids are hard to tell apart, and life is about as unpredictable as the super-charged non-sequiturs flying back and forth over a cup of coffee.

I’ll drink to that.

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You can catch all 7 seasons of Gilmore Girls on Netflix as well as the 4-episode reunion, which launches on Netflix on Nov. 25.

 

 

The Key to the City

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Sometimes the things you look forward to the most don’t turn out exactly as planned…  That was today’s lesson, as we stood shoulder to shoulder with a crowd outside of Charlotte’s Regal Park Terrace cinema, waiting for a fifty year old time capsule to be cracked open.

To my surprise, I felt more like a Charlottean than ever before as sixties music filled the air and people browsed through a display of artifacts from the era — a local phone book from the ’50s, a vintage Battleship game, an air raid protocol poster, old records, a retro TV, a viewmaster, and more.

We all wondered what would be inside this box buried in front of the theater the same year The Beatles came to America, during the height of the Civil Rights movement and as the Vietnam War raged on.

Some people around us reminisced about when the movie theater first opened or spending Saturday mornings there as kids in the ’60s and ’70s. Others remembered an even earlier time when this land had simply been an empty lot, before the Park Road Shopping Center’s arrival in the late ’50s — when it became the first outdoor shopping center of its kind in Charlotte and the largest in the region spanning from DC to Atlanta.

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It didn’t matter that we are not orignally from Charlotte. My husband and I, like so many residents, are transplants from other places far away. Having lived in Charlotte for almost eight years now, we have our local memories too: celebrating a belated St. Patrick’s Day over a pint of Guiness at Sir Ed’s days after the birth of our first son; family dinners at The Flying Biscuit; watching the kids test the goods at Toys & Co.; hearing my young sons squeal “cookie, cookie” as we dash into Harris Teeter for some groceries; listening to community members read Dr. Seuss books at Park Road Books; and of course seeing great independent movies on those too rare date nights at the Regal Park Terrace.

Suddenly, today, I realized that we really have become Charlotteans. Just by going about our everyday lives we’ve set down roots in this place. We are a part of this city and just like everyone around us — the young and the not-so-young —  we hoped that we would discover some missing piece, some clue from our collective past when the time capsule would be opened.

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And what did they find inside the sludgy, muddy interior? Pieces of decayed newspaper, a mysterious reel of film, the binding from a now disintegrated notebook, and a key to the city.

Some people were disappointed. They called the event a “bust.” But I don’t see it that way.

The half hour before the ceremony was magic for me: chatting with the people around us, sharing stories about the past and the present. We hugged our kids, admired the vintage car parked next to us, and mouthed the words to classic songs.

The joy for me was in participating in this scene — experiencing a strong sense of community, even though we were mostly surrounded by strangers. The anticipation before the opening and the chance to revisit the past collectively were a unique gift. I realize now that it really didn’t matter what was in the box.

Ultimately, it’s a shared vision — imagining possibilities and commemorating our past — that binds us together. It gives us a sense of belonging. It’s the true key to the city.