if he was my brother




There’s been a lot of debate during this latest election cycle about the Social Contract – the notion that we, as members of a civilized society – as citizens of a nation – have a responsibility to care for one another. Some have taken to the stage to champion the idea while others have vociferously dismissed it. Some believe that we are inextricably bound to each other, that success can never be achieved by the whole until the opportunity for it is equally available to all, while some believe that as long as opportunity exists somewhere and in some fashion, it is up to each of us to find a way to access it no matter our circumstances. Some believe that the true measure of us as a people can be found in the way that we care for the most vulnerable among us – our children, the elderly, the sick, the disabled. I am among them. I believe from the bottom of my feet to the last hair on my head that we do not just have a responsibility to one another, but that we BELONG to one another.

In May, I had the privilege of visiting the White House to meet with Mike Strautmanis, an advisor to President Obama. I brought him a letter that I asked him to give to his boss. In that letter, I wrote the following:

I believe in this nation.

I believe in an America whose people are not divided by the illusion of political disagreement, but who are instead united by their desire to make this world a better place for our children.

I believe in an America that is not torn apart by religious difference but instead thrives on its insistence that respect for that very difference is exactly what makes us who we are.

I believe in an America where every single human being is not just tolerated but valued, supported and celebrated.

I believe in an America in which we collectively treat every child as if they were our own. Because they ARE our own.

In the months since I wrote that, I’ve heard a lot of noise to the contrary. Our veterans, our disabled, our working poor, our elderly have been lumped together and stuffed into a box labeled “[People who] believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name it — that that’s an entitlement.” It’s made me sad and it’s made me scared for the next generation.

I know I’ve said it before, but I think it bears repeating — the ones who confuse me most are the ones who jump up and down and stomp their feet as they thump their bibles, yet seem to have forgotten what’s inside them. I always come back to my favorite story from the gospel of Matthew. The one that’s played out in my baby’s beloved Godspell. The one that she led me to. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? How when we stop and listen to our children they lead us? Hold on to that for me, OK? It’s going to matter.

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

That’s Matthew 25:34-46 in case you want to look it up.

My daughter, my beautiful Katie, saw a kid who was hurting. And she instinctively said, “I need to do something.” And then she did. And when she did, YOU came forward to help her. And you helped her BIG. And now she’s trying to figure out how to do more. To help more kids. Because that’s how it works, isn’t it?

I asked her the other day why she wanted to do all of this. Her answer started with the words, “Because if he was my brother …”

I believe in an America in which we collectively treat every child as if they were our own. Because they ARE our own.

Apparently, so does she. And so do YOU.

My girl went into this trying to raise $800 to buy Tucker a fancy, hospital-friendly keyboard. I published her post on Friday morning at 6am. By late morning, she was up to $1200. By evening, she was up to $2200. By last night, she’d officially moved on from the keyboard. That was done. Now she’s eyeing the big prize – an ICU approved Wii system for the kids, who, like Tuck, end up stuck in there for a while. It ain’t cheap. Like over $4,000 of not cheap. I told her that was a lot of cookies and brownies. She said, “I know, but if he was my brother ..” I remembered that stopping and listening and kids leading thing, so I stopped talking.

Then she reminded me that YOU would help.

“Mama, there’s that Grandma who offered to help bake. And those people at that company. And the cupcake lady. And Ainsley and Miss Alysia and Miss Sara and all the other people around here who said they’d help bake.”

And she, of course, was right. We have an entire army of volunteers waiting to be drafted into service. A grandma who offered up her kitchen to take on overflow. A woman whose entire department at work wants to help with fulfillment. A cupcake baker in Connecticut who wants to hold a real live bake sale down there and send Katie the proceeds. And local friends who have offered to help bake, package and send orders.

Your generosity has far surpassed anything I could have imagined. Not my girl though. She’s not surprised at all.

Thank you. From me and Katie. Thank you.

Tuck’s been struggling the last few days. Please keep sending your love and prayers to the Gowens. They help. They really do.

Follow Tuck’s story HERE

Read about the bake sale HERE


22 thoughts on “if he was my brother

  1. So when she says “if he was my brother,” as though her path has been all sunshine and roses, then I cry. That’s what so many of us have lost – the ability to see past our own struggles, to set them aside, to see others and HELP. The world needs more Katies.

  2. What Pixie said. That young lady of yours has the rare ability to see the good in everyone and the desire to help because we are all family. She comes by that honestly, of course, since that is exactly what you teach us every single day.

  3. You have made your baby and all around you look at the world so very differently than the politicos who say they want to help but really only want to help themselves and the power brokers they serve.
    Do you remember the words in the song as you were growing up, “he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother”? Sounds like you learned the message and passed it on to yours and all of us….
    I always listen to my child because she always teaches me more than I could ever dream of knowing…

  4. There have been when the simple act of reading this post has set larger things into motion… and I am but one. Way to go 🙂

  5. You tell that magnificent girl of yours that it wasn’t my brother, but it was, in fact, my sister. I remember the cards, and the toys (at one point, my sister’s room was *filled* with smurfs), and the Girl Scout troop from across the street who brought a care package… Thirty years later, I remember these things, and how much they mattered, and how they made the difference, how they made the days go by better. While we can support research funding and children’s cancer charities, acts of kindness like Katie’s are just as important. And acts like these go on and on in the hearts of others. Thank you, love.

  6. Fantastic that you’ve had such a strong response. Please keep my donation but cancel my bake goods order. You’ve got enough on your hands and we certainly don’t need the extra calories ;-). Love to all.

  7. You are raising an amazing little girl there.

    Children’s is our hospital too, and I have a huge degree of affection and appreciation for anyone who helps them out. We have spent so much time there for appointments, invasive tests, surgeries, and ER visits. They try so hard to enrich the lives of the patients who are there. Thank you!

  8. I am sitting here sobbing, too incoherent to say more than I LOVE YOUR DAUGHTER. We’re sending something, too. A small way to pay forward the love of all the anonymous donors and volunteers who carried us through the long and frightening seven months when Nik was in the NICU. Like Sara G said, we remember all these years later. It makes all the difference in the world

  9. Tuck is all our brother, our son and Katie and Brooke are all our daughters. It’s a simple message but so profound. What a way to shine her light. Thank you Katie.

  10. How can I help?

    I was one of those on Friday morning who placed an order. But guess what, now I don’t want any of the delicious cookies or brownies (and Katie – I’m sure they’re gonna be awesome). I just want to know how I can help make THIS effort be bigger. Cuz to be honest it never really was about the baked goods. It was about making sure that those chills that I got when I read your post and KNEW that I needed to get involved, well, I want to spread those around.

  11. Good things only happen when someone is willing to take that first step and be the leader. Katie leads us. I hope she never stops.

  12. Your daughter truly has angel wings here on earth!! She has such a beautiful heart… Must take after her mother!! Go Katie!!!

  13. The wolf will live with the lamb,
    the leopard will lie down with the goat,
    the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;
    and a little child will lead them.
    Isaiah 11:6

    Sometimes it takes a child to show us the way. Way to go, beautiful girl!

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