Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Cheerful Giver

Ray and Rose Brown with the girls

A few days ago, we read about a dear friend and his wife in the Deseret News.  The article is by Jeff Benedict and he writes about Ray Brown, a real George Bailey of our day, who lives in Groton, Connecticut.  

Ray's health is failing. A diagnosis of cancer in his 86 year old body has taken him to a nursing home far from his wife, who is now home alone. They are marvelous folk who saw our need when we were fundraising for Esra's Trust.  I hope we can come up with a way to help them in their time of need.

Mr. Benedict writes:
When a man dedicates 50 years to building a business, it ends up being the main narrative of his life. But the thing I cherish most about Ray is his sense of humor. He used to wear a pin that said: I AM THE MOST HUMBLE. He'd grin when he wore it. People who knew him cracked up because a humble person would never wear a pin like that.
 Yet Ray is the humblest man I know. He wore old clothes; drove an old car; lived in an old simple house; and packed a lunch that he seldom stopped to eat.
We love Ray's humor, too.  In the winter, we would bundle up our little girls on those cold, Connecticut evenings, and spend the evening visiting with the Browns.  We miss being far away; we always enjoy their stories, memories and laughter.  

As a lifelong accountant, Ray would spin tales to Sam.  Usually they were awe-inspiring number-crunching stories involving only  Ray's brain, paper and pencil.  While Sam listened, I would sit with Rose and she would tell of her growing up in the Italian neighborhood of New London.  

Their authenticity and history wrapped up with the foibles and mistakes of marriage and parenting always had us thinking what our legacy would be one day.  Rays' humorous storytelling always balances Rose's details that make the past seem near.  Human, imperfect, and so loved.  Those two teach us that marriage includes a lot of putting-up with one another. But they keep going in spite of their imperfections or hearing loss.

The news article tells more about Ray:
But he always had time for a laugh. Only Ray didn't just laugh. He bellowed, often so loud that his face would turn cherry red and the skin on his forehead would furrow. Usually he was the butt of his best jokes, especially when things were going wrong.
 Ray did my taxes for years. I started going to him when my wife and I first got married. He'd always pass along tips about saving money and being frugal.
 But the priceless life lesson that Ray taught me was unspoken. By example he taught me to laugh at life, even when life isn't funny. 
Ray experienced his share of sadness. But he smothered it with laughter. Teach a man to do that and it's like giving him a fountain of youth.
The Browns are not only our friends but supporters of Esra's Trust.  Their love and devotion to us kept us going even when things were evidently difficult for them.  I hope these highlights help you to know Ray and his sweet wife Rose so you may pray for them.  

May you be inspired by their goodness, like I am, to be better; more cheerful, more giving.

At The Baseball Game

Last week, we spent an evening at Chase Field thanks to HopeKids.  It was the D'backs and the Brewers.  Here are some random thoughts from our night out:

Thanks to the worlds biggest bag of kettle corn, we made it to the fourth inning.

Esra loved clapping and cheering.  And Estelle thought the outfielder with the long hair was a girl.  

Thank goodness the ceiling to Chase Field was closed, because it was a hot day.

The next time we go, we will have to try something at the gluten-free vendor. 

We had about half of our bag of kettle corn left when we got home. {Yes, the bag was that big. And No, I do not regret that I left it on the counter or that Estelle snuck the back into their room or that the girls had kettle corn for breakfast.}

Making Friends

Esra is no shrinking-violet.  Have you ever seen this girl work a room?  She will charm you out of your drink, your food, your bag even.  Now that I think about it, we have a lot of social appropriateness issues to work on.  But to say the least, she is friendly, unconditional, fearless and bossy.  And she loves her friends.  Here are few of them:

Esra and Cloey at the Circus.  
We met Cloey and her family at the Elmo event at Ryan House.  Cloey is ten and, like Esra, has the only documented case of a genetic disorder.  These girls are bosom friends and they just glow when they are together.  So, when Bridget at Hopekids called and said we could spend some time with Cloey's family at the circus, we were thrilled.  Thanks to HopeKids and their amazing donor who gave us their skybox and parking for the night.   The girls giggled, held hands and gave hugs.  Seeing these girls together really was the main event.

Esra, Estelle and Faith pushing/pulling the "train" 
This weekend, we went to the Arizona State Homeschool Convention.  We visited a booth hosted by veteran homeschool moms. We were blessed to meet a mom who understood what we were going through.  She has several children.  Three of them are adopted and have spina bifida.  Of course, Esra made friends with one of their lovely and equally friendly teenagers, Faith.  The first thing Esra wanted to do was to push Faith's wheelchair.  So, Esra held on to Faith's wheelchair and grinned while Faith pushed along and they explored the exhibitor hall.  

Esra and Anna
Last night, we had dinner with Anna and her family.  Anna is a year younger than Esra and she, too, has Spina Bifida.  I actually was introduced to Anna's mom through email when we lived in Connecticut.  Anna had just been born and because our families share the same faith and endure the same military insurance, our mutual friend thought we were a great match.  

We had no idea that we would one day live in Arizona.  So, now that the girls have met, they just adore each other.  And I always learn from Anna's mom.  She has a deep reservoir of faith and perserverance, plus the greatest record-keeping and documentation skills.  I always leave conversations with her with a renewed drive to document!

I should have gotten a picture of Anna pushing Esra's wheelchair.  Needless to say,  Anna endured cheerfully all of Esra's bossing.