A Gift That Cannot Be Replicated
There is something about traveling at 556 mph and 33,000 ft. above the earth that always makes me reflect on the past. A similar flight occurred just over eight years ago, and I was nervous then as I’m nervous now. At that time, I was yet to be a dad, but that was all about to change. I had just kissed goodbye my very pregnant wife so that I could bring back our twelve-month-old daughter waiting for us in China.
Two months prior, we had been matched with a beautiful girl from the city of Shantou named Sheng Jia Rong. Her first name means “Beautiful Hibiscus.” An information packet was on its way by courier and I stayed home to wait. My wife, Christi, phoned from the local coffee shop. The special tea that day was Hibiscus. It had to be a sign. As I waited for the courier to arrive, I googled “Shantou” and in front of me appeared a Yahoo group about kids adopted from Shantou, which seem incredulous given that this was 2004. My request to join was answered with, “Who is your daughter?” “Sheng Jia Rong,” I replied. “Oh I love that baby. Did you know her nickname is ‘Little Peach?’ It’s because her face is always red from laughing. My foundation does a lot of work in Shantou. I go there every three months, and I will be back on the 22nd of May. Maybe we will meet up then.” Thus was my introduction to Amy Eldridge and Love Without Boundaries. On June 1, wearing a very red, button-down shirt, I held our daughter for the first time.
Volunteering for LWB started out as a way to feel like I could give something back for one of our greatest gifts, our daughter. I quickly discovered that I was the recipient of much more than I gave. I’ve had the opportunity to witness hundreds of children find their families, and in that, I’ve been able to share in that joy. It’s a gift that cannot be replicated. The work sometimes comes with its share of sadness and pain for the children we are not able to reach in time. Yet, our volunteers and employees continue on with the understanding that the work we do for the children we can reach is just so important.
So here it is eight years later, and I’m nervous again. This time, there’s not one child waiting, but dozens of children preparing to have their cleft surgery next week during LWB’s Cleft Exchange Trip. I don’t want to let them down. I know there are families out there waiting for them. Maybe they’re reading this right now. So on Monday, I will be wearing the same very red, button-down shirt I did on June 1, 2004. It seems appropriate.
~Chris Ingoldsby, LWB Board Member. Chris will be spending this next week on our Cleft Exchange Trip and will be sharing his thoughts with us each day.