"Sixth floor," the elevator announced as I stepped off into Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. The sixth-floor houses the neonatal intensive care unit, a floor my wife and I are particularly familiar with. This time, I was visiting the nutritionist, dropping off some food for our sweet baby girl who is living on the fifth floor with us for her sixth hospital stay in three months. I had Taytum's car seat in tow and was about to take it to my car to make more space in our 75-square-foot hospital room. A mother stood in front of me chatting with the nutritional team. She turned to me and smiled. I thought it odd. Most parents at a children's hospital have a tired, defeated, depressed expression as they traverse the halls. This mom was different. She was almost inviting me into her story. She glanced at the car seat and said, "Congratulations!" I was moderately baffled at her declaration, so I responded politely, "On what?"
"On returning home! What a great feeling."
I smiled, trying not to crush our moment, but said, "Well, we aren't leaving yet. We just need some more space."
She chuckled and said, "It's weird, isn't it? We have a car, a car seat, and no baby to take home. Anyway, good luck, and hope you leave soon!"
She walked away with almost a bounce in her step. I stood there in utter disbelief, unable to hear the nutritionist calling for the next parent in line. I finished my sixth-floor duties and headed to the car, car seat in hand, but no Taytum Grace to join.
I pondered what this cheerful mom had uttered to me in the hallway. What made it so impactful was the tremendous depiction of vulnerability she displayed. She built connective tissue in a place where that typically isn't done. She used her crisis as a chance to engage others. It demonstrated the exact opposite reaction communities typically have during a crisis moment.
If you look around the world, one can see, feel, and touch an enormous number of crises. From political and civil discourse feeling a bit too warm to economic issues hampering many Americans, weather phenomena, and shootings, the world is full of situations of despair. Many of us walk around with that tired, defeated, depressed expression I have grown accustomed to seeing in the hospital these many months. The weight of the world sits on our shoulders all the time.
Sometimes we, as people, organizations, and foundations, can play into the despair. We might walk with our heads hung as darkness overwhelms us.
But what if we were like my new friend from the sixth floor? This mom did not pretend we weren't both facing heartbreaking circumstances. She recognized it. "A car, a car seat, and no baby to take home." Nothing she said downplayed our lack of normalcy. But what she did was open herself up to connection, share in the moment, and continue to speak her positivity to give others some sunshine.
Organizations can be just this. Light in the darkness. Not people who belittle hard circumstances or people who stay stuck in difficulties. What if we were people who recognized the hardship, invited others into the mess, and went forth with positivity?
Maybe we can be known for being sunshine in the darkness. We can foster wide participation by meeting people exactly where they are but pushing forward to explore possibilities. To turn silos into systems, we have to enter others' silos.
Bringing forth the best in all, The Patterson Foundation strives to be present for communities in unique ways by recognizing where stakeholders are in their lives and where they may fall on the spectrum of Cope, Adapt, Innovate while still finding places to push toward excellence.
Let's be a world of people and organizations making change by being small glimmers of hope in dark times.
On August 3, 2022, our sweet daughter Taytum Grace finally had her long-awaited open heart surgery. Potentially more agonizing for my wife and me, we waited eight hours to see our precious little girl.
After two nights of angst and a few scares, like the flick of a light switch, our little fighter was feeling better, and after only four days in the hospital post-operation, she was able to head back home with a healed heart.
The medical team at All Children’s in St. Petersburg was fantastic and assured us that the likelihood of Taytum Grace needing any more interventions is very slim. We are so grateful to each and every one of you who sent cards, gifts, activities, and most importantly, your prayers. We now have a car, a car seat, and a healthy baby to take home.