Loyal to the company Bob never is late for work. For the first time in 20 years he sleeps past his alarm. Frugal Bob has kept the same alarm clock for ten years. It serves him well, always waking him up on time. Yet, today it won’t turn on because it has finally died.
Bob’s wife has already awoken at 6:00 a.m. She is a lighter sleeper than Bob. She makes the coffee. Their four children come thundering down the staircase. Susy, their five year-old daughter cries out, “Mom, I’m hungry. What’s for breakfast? Their mother, Karen, is trying but failing at doing her morning devotions. With a sigh she says,” Susy, I’m trying to have some quiet time with God. Please give me ten minutes alone.” Susy will not accept this answer. “But, Mom, I’m hungry now! I want some of those yummy blueberry pancakes, please, Mom, please!” Susy pouts, hoping this will get her the pancakes she craves.
Then, the mother is swamped with all the requests of their children. Their eighteen year-old son, John, makes his case for having the use of the family car for a date with Valerie. She is a cheerleader he met last year he has a crush on.
“Mom, can I have the car for my date tonight with Valerie? I promise I’ll be really careful with it. I ‘ll make sure not to put a scratch on it. I’m sorry that I hit our neighbour’s car when I was backing out of the driveway yesterday.” Then, Brian, their seven year-old shouts out in pain, “Mom, Carol pushed me! All I wanted was some bathroom time. When I was coming out of the bathroom she shoved me and knocked me down. I need a band-aid. When are you going to make up that bathroom schedule?”
Carol is their ten year-old daughter. Carol looks like an angel, but is often anything but angelic. She’s always getting her brothers into trouble. She has autism.
Carol rocks back and forth with her body, trying to get her Mom’s attention. “Mom, I want to go to school a different way today.I’m tired of going the same way all the time. She pulls at her mother’s dress. Mom, Mom, I want to go to school a different way today. I want to go to school a different way today. I want to go to school a different way today.
Mom, I hate you! Why won’t you listen to me?”
Carol throws a glass on the kitchen table across the room. It smashes to the floor.
Their mother, Karen, is in severe burnout. For the first time she admits to her children in frustration she’s had more than enough. She shouts out at the top of her lungs, “Go away! Give me some time alone with God, now!!”
All their children are shocked except Carol. Carol with her autism can’t understand her mother’s sorrow. Mom has never spoken to them this way before.
John says, acting as the big brother his mom and dad are so proud of, “Carol, go into the front room now for a time out and settle down.” Carol makes a face at her brother as she goes to the front room. She rocks back and forth in the rocking chair in the front room. She starts to calm down.
John says to Susy and Brian as he looks them in the eyes with that fixed stare they always pay attention to, Go into the front room now! ” They know not to mess with their brother when he gets that look in his eyes. John says,”Mom needs some space. Mom, I’ll take care of everything. I’ll drive the kids to school and pick them up after and bring them home. You need some time alone with God. And that’s okay. Mom, That’s okay.”
Susy and Brian head into the front room.
John understands Karen’s need to be alone with God. He is just coming out of having a flu that almost took his life, when his temperature went to 105 degrees farenheit. He has been out of school for over a month.
No mother or father could ask for a better son. John got saved a St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church at age fifteen. He came to Christ after being in burnout himself from worshipping the god of academics.
He often stays up past 2:00 a.m. pounding facts, dates in history and mathematical formulas into his head. He has just been diagnosed with pernicious anemia, which is also known as B12 deficiency. He will need B12 injections for the rest of his life because his stomach can’t fully process the B12 in his food. The condition makes him tired all of the time. It’s an auto immune disease that at times leaves him feeling quite weak.
He is out of school sometimes weeks at a time all throughout his life. He has one flu after the other and many bouts with bronchitis. He has been hospitalized many times because of his poor immune system. One bout with pneumonia a year ago goes into both of his lungs. He is several months recovering from it.
The medical team, parents and his pastor, Stephen Jacobsen, impress upon John his need to not worry over his school work.
John is an honors student at Englehart Secondary School. He has an 87% average, but has been pushing hard for a 90% average to get a full scholarship to Ryerson University’s journalism program. He wants to train to be a journalist.
John hugs his mother.
Then, he motions to his brother and two sisters to come out of the front room. He tells them to go and wait in the car.John opens the door as Carol and Susy go past him to the car. John backs out of the driveway and heads off to take the kids to their schools.
Karen cries out to God for help.
“Lord, I need some time with You. Bob and I had a terrible quarrel last night. He’s so stressed out because sales are down at work. He’s afraid he’s going to lose his job. I said some nasty things to Bob I really regret about how he doesn’t care about me.
I’m afraid I’m going to lose him. I know he loves me, but his work keeps having him come home late night after night. I know he’s always been faithful to me, but I wonder if he’s having an affair with that beautiful secretary, Betty.
Everyone’s demanding my time. I have nothing left to give. I’m exhausted. I can’t go on like this!
Lord, I’m in a fog. Where are You? I can’t find You. It seems like I don’t know You like I once did when Bob was working as a teacher. All of us were much happier then. I wish our neighbour had never got him into working in sales. Bob’s good at it, but his real calling is teaching.”
Karen weeps and through her tears says, “Lord, I can’t take it anymore! Carol is going more and more into her private world. She breaks things. She swears at me.
The therapist says Carol will need more treatment, but there’s no money left for it. We mortgaged our home just to keep up with these expenses.
Lord, if that’s not bad enough, Susy has been diagnosed with that rare condition called systemic mastocytosis. I’m still learning about it. The allergist said Susy needed to be intubated two times because of it. The government isn’t providing for the cost of all of Susy’s medications.
They tell me that if Susy doesn’t get all of her allergy and immune booster medications one of these darned mast cell attacks where the cells in her immune system and in her tissues and organs proliferate, is going to kill her. Father, it’s just so scary! I have to make sure Susy has EPI pens wherever we go because these awful mast cell attacks can hit without warning, sending her heart rate and blood pressure soaring.
God, I don’t have the energy anymore to go with her to the ER. Help us now! Oh, God, help us now, please!! Lord, I need Your help! I need you, Lord. I need You. Where are You? Where are You?”
Bob hears Karen crying. He throws on his robe. He stumbles in the darkness out of the bedroom on the main floor that leads into the kitchen.
With a look of loving concern, he asks God for help concerning what to say to Karen to help her in her time of crisis.
As he prays the Lord brings to mind the song they sang at their wedding seven years ago, In the Garden.
As you hear me sing this song, picture it being Bob singing to Karen.
Karen leans her face into Bob’s left shoulder. He wraps his arms around her. She feels so loved by God and her husband. All her worry about Bob having an affair ends.
Bob loses his job in sales but it turns out to be God’s gift. The school principal, Kevin Dobson, has known Bob for 20 years. Bob started his teaching career in the beautiful town of Englehart, in northern Ontario. He presses hard with the Board of Education for Bob to become a Vice-Principal. He will be earning more money, but with all the costs for Carol’s and Susy’s care they have have to declare bankruptcy.
Then, Bob and Karen receive a blessing they aren’t expecting. The Rotary Club calls a special meeting. They will have a community fundraiser to cover the cost of Carol’s autism therapy that is not provided by the Ontario government.
The Lion’s Club has their own community fundraiser. They decide to pay for the cost for Susy to see a doctor at the Mayo Clinic, who specializes in the treatment of systemic mastocytosis.
This story has a happy ending, but the reality for many individuals and families is far different. Too many families in Ontario are left out in the cold when it comes to covering the cost of autism therapy.
Too many people with rare conditions are denied coverage for the medications they need. It is too easy to say that the responsibility falls to the government alone to offer help to those in need of care
Working families, those on disability and welfare, need to have the medications and treatments they can’t afford covered, through the action of community and government working together.
Unless we work together the spiritual and physical bankruptcy in people’s lives will get much more serious.
Let us all remember that as we work together for a more just and loving world, “Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen” (I Corinthians 13:7-8a, J.B. Phillips New Testament).
Together we can create a wonderful world, where more people get the hand up they need. I’ll let Louis Armstrong, affectionately known as Sachmo, have the last word.