I had the joy and privilege of participating in Natalie's Walk of Hope this past Saturday. It was a fundraiser to help Natalie's family with her medical expenses. Natalie and her twin brother, Evan will turn two this week. Two months ago Natalie Osborn was diagnosed with tumor wrapped around her brain stem. The tumor was successfully removed and she began her 3rd week of radiation treatment this week. Her recovery has been filled with challenges of many types. The Walk was a fundraiser to help with the enormous costs involved in Natalie's care and treatment, but it was so much more than that.
I have been hard pressed to understand, let alone articulate well, why I have felt so compelled to come alongside Natalie's family in this journey on which they find themselves. I know the family through Natalie's aunt, my friend, Tracy. I had never met Natalie or her parents, Sarah and Brian, before Natalie's Walk, yet I have felt so connected to them through Brian's tweets (Twitter) and Sarah's online journal at CaringBridge.org . The Walk included refection points along the way with scripture and prayers taken from Sarah's journal, all well marked and a poignant reminder of why we were there - a journey much longer than our symbolic two mile trek.
It was a joyful sight to see Natalie and Evan and their cousins playing and enjoying a beautiful Colorado morning at a local park. Strangers would never have known to look at Natalie what she has been through and continues to battle through. She seemed to simply and deeply enjoy being with her brother and her cousins and feeling the sun on her face.
I expected to be an outsider of sorts at Natalie's Walk of Hope. I imagined a close knit group of family and friends, and friends of theirs, gathering together to visibly show support of the Osborns and rally around them and give their time, support and whatever donations they brought. I busied myself taking photos, as I often do, and tried to blend into the activity. As I had opportunity to visit with other people I was so surprised to learn that all were not close friends of Sarah and Brian's. The women who organized The Walk were part of a Bible Study that Sarah sometimes attends. Sarah and the sister of one of them are in MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) together.
One woman that I visited a long time with only learned about The Walk three days prior, when she attended a Bible Study for the first time. She too felt compelled to be there. She told me about her cousin, who was diagnosed with a tumor similar to Natalie's when he was seven years old. She shared his struggles to re-learn normal activities again. She said he is now 24 and his parents are still paying on his hospital bills. She understands all too well the financial challenges that accompany providing medical care for a child with a life threatening disease.
I tried to find another woman who had organized a wristband fundraiser for Natalie, but no one I asked knew who she was or if she had even come to The Walk. I knew she planned to come. We had been sharing fundraising ideas via e-mail and I just wanted to put a face to a name. It wasn't until later in the day, when she tagged one of my photos of The Walk on Facebook, that I knew she had been there.
Clearly there were close friends and family there, but it was also clear that even Sarah and Brian did not know everyone. There was a greater call for people to come and be part than just friendship or family ties, at least earthly family ties.
I came to feel a deeper sense of purpose and belonging than I anticipated with these 85 or so people on The Walk and the others they represented. I got a glimpse in a new and different way of God orchestrating His people, His family, to come together, not just on this day, on this Walk, but on the journey that Natalie and her family are on. For me, it became a Walk of Hope, not only for Natalie, and her family, but for me, and for the family of God. In a world that seems focused on differences, grudges, unforgiveness, and revenge, it refreshed my soul, revived my spirit and breathed hope into my life about what can be done when we listen to God and obey, even when we don't understand - maybe especially when we don't understand.