On a recent Monday evening, I pulled on to the Cunningham campus after a spending the day visiting with some of our friends and supporters in the northern part of Illinois Great Rivers Conference. As usual, it was a very satisfying day sharing stories about our kids at Cunningham with people who care deeply about them. But it was also a tiring day. Just two days before, I had made a quick trip to St. Paul, Minnesota and back to see family so I'd seen plenty of windshield time for awhile.
As I unloaded the car at the door of the Spiritual Life Center, one of our kids, Jacob*, rode up on his bike and greeted me. I am more familiar with Jacob than some of our other youth; he is often around helping at events and activities and is always friendly and talkative. This particular day was no different.
"How are you doing tonight?" Jacob asked. "Have you been traveling all day?"
"I'm well but tired," I replied honestly. "Yes, I've been out visiting some of our donors."
"Long day?" he asked.
"Yes, but a good one," I answered. "It was just a little longer because I traveled a long way over the weekend so the idea of getting back into the car this morning wasn't very inviting." Then I added, "But we do what we have to do."
Without missing a beat, Jacob responded: "And you do it very well." Then he rode off on his bike.
I was so surprised by his comment that I just stood there and stared at him as he rode away. While Jacob's words made me feel good, I wondered if he really understood what I do; or what any of us do. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, yes; I think he does get it. And the fact that he took the time to recognize and appreciate my efforts showed me the progress our kids are making in being able to trust and believe in the good of others.
It also made me realize that our kids at Cunningham are more observant than we often give them credit for.
When we present a new resident with their quilt, they may not be able to articulate it, but they know they are going to be cared for here. When a therapist spends extra time with one of our kids, they know that person is going above and beyond the requirement. When a teacher gives individual attention to help a student pass a test, they know that teacher wants them to be successful. When we hold our annual Festival of Quilts, our kids know it is more than a show...it's to help them. And when our kids look over and see that construction of our new Education and Recreation Center is underway, they know that a lot of generous and dedicated people have made that happen.
Our youth are growing just by watching us and by watching you. They see your generosity, your care and concern, your commitment to their future. And they will become better people by emulating the love you show them. Each time you volunteer, make a gift, say a kind word; they are learning how to be caring, loving people. You are an essential part of their therapy.
Thank you for everything you do for our kids.
*All stories are real, however, names are changed and photos selected to protect the privacy of our youth.