The period leading up to the end of summer is busy for a number of reasons, but in our case it coincides with the major MDA fund-raising period that leads up to the Labor Day Telethon. Part of our volunteer duties include visiting Safeway grocery stores in the area, raising awareness,participating in different events, and even bagging for the cashiers who are actively requesting donations at the registers. Sometimes it also includes thank-you letters from us to corporate leaders such as the one below.
Nationally, Safeway raised over $11 million, of which nearly $700 thousand came from our region. The money is imporant—we understand this intimately—but there is a deeper level to our own involvement which I occasionally try to convey.
The Letter, 2010
I was reluctant to tell Joby that it was that time of year again. Since we participated last year as guest baggers, Joby’s strength has predictably declined: While last year he was able to stand and move about, loading some smaller bags into patrons’ carts with a simle, this year Joby cannot stand on his feet for more than ten or fifteen minutes before complaining that his “feet are getting tired.”
One evening at dinner, however, Joby surprised us, telling us that when he grew up, he wanted to be a bagger. After hushed giggles, we asked him why? His response was simple and direct: He wants to live with us, his parents, when he grows up, but he does not want to be considered a “freeloader.”
Everyday, our work with the MDA reminds me of one thing perhaps more important than any other: It is never my role to limit my son’s desire or will to be part of society, to interact, to contribute, to exchange, to grow, to enjoy, to love, to live. In this most significant respect, Joby is no different from any other child, and in this same respect I am no different from any other parent.
So I asked and my son answered, and we did commit ourselves to Safeway’s campaign this year as you committed yourselves to us. In each of our store visits, Joby did his best to help as a bagger, and in each case he did tire after ten or fifteen minutes as I knew he would and he returned to his wheelchair to rest. What I did not anticipate—though perhaps I should have—was what would happen in the remaining time: the spirit shared between Joby, the Safeway staff, the Safeway customers, and me, his father, was lifted.
In truth—my truth—the opportunity to share time with my son like this and to work with people who genuinely care is collectively worth more than any money anyone or any organization could possibly raise. In reality, though, we know clearly that the money raised as a result makes opportunities like this possible for us—all of us—hopefully over many more years to come. So today I will leave it to MDA to tell you about how my family and others have benefited and continue to benefit from your generosity; I on the other hand will offer no less than all I have: my family’s heartfelt thanks for this renewal of hope.