… a community that cares

I remember block parties, 4th of July picnics, and back to school cookouts; I remember my dad still making house calls, waving to the neighbors as they stood in the fresh cut summer grass as their children played and cars that slowed down.  Today we live in neighborhoods scattered across a city where we rarely speak to our neighbors, most of which we don’t even know by name.  Our lives take us away from home early in the morning to return only after the sun has gone down.  Garage doors open and close before we even make it out of our cars.

I love where I live.  I am raising my children in a town that is large enough to give them every opportunity to be whoever they want and small enough to keep them grounded in their southern roots.  They can choose to brave the interstate, stick to the named streets in town or find a backroad that leads them anywhere they want to go.

When the blog about Elizabeth and Luke Bryan posted I had no idea the impact it would have on our community.  I knew I was going to purchase tickets for The Farm Tour even though I knew it was going to be challenging to figure out how to get Elizabeth from one pasture to another and within some distance so she could hear him with the hopes that the fields of vision that are slowly coming back would find a way that she could see him as well.  I had hoped that maybe one of our local radio stations would pick up on the story and find a way for Elizabeth to be a part of the meet and greet that so many make a part of their shows now.  I had my reservations about posting the letter, again asking for help is not in my nature.  I am the helper, the problem solver, the fixer of all.  After Elizabeth was born and family and friends would bring meals I felt as if I needed to return the favor.  I would have cakes wrapped and tied with colorful bows or sleeves of cookies tightly wound with string ready to hand out as they made their way towards the door to leave.

One share became another and another and another ….  From Facebook to Twitter the story of a little girl in a purple wheelchair who came alive when the music from her favorite guy played made its way into peoples social life and into their hearts.  Friends were calling friends they knew that knew someone that might be able to help.  The blog received thousands of visitors and emails were pouring in from people all over the country offering words of encouragement, wanting to know more about my Elizabeth.  Some had connections and asked if they could use them while others shared personal stories of their own little ones and how Elizabeth had become their hope to carry on another day.

No promises were made, no magical answer to how to get E in front of Luke but somehow that didn’t seem to be what mattered anymore.  People were reading her story, they were learning about a child living life to the fullest despite her disability.  People were talking about and sharing how they could help better understand someone they knew who was just like her.  People were interested in learning more about Cerebral Palsy, about how they can help people in their communities, children who their own kids go to school with.  There were dinner conversations about accepting everyone for who they are without judging them simply by the way they look.  Elizabeth was responsible for this and that is what Life with Elizabeth was meant to do.

And while all this was happening from coast to coast there was one community in the little corner of Northwest Arkansas that decided they were going to do whatever it took to make this dream a reality for someone most had never heard of until that day a letter was written by a mother who simply wanted to bring a bit of happiness to her daughter.  One person wrote a letter, a heart felt letter expecting nothing in return; another person made a phone call to a friend who they thought could help; someone else sat down and sent an email that said ….

We’ve never met but I feel God has chosen me to be Elizabeth’s audience

This went on for days.  Our busy city of careers, social media and family had slowed down in order to help one little girl.  There are really no words to describe how humbling it is to know that people still care, still believe in paying it forward, take time for their neighbors to help without expecting something for themselves and in the end your daughter is the one responsible for this.

Thank you just doesn’t seem to be enough for what our amazing town has done for Elizabeth.  So many people have courageously stepped forward to help; some I know about and some have been done so quietly behind the scenes that we will never hear about or know who to thank so to everyone I want to say thank you for coming together, for bringing awareness to those that live life a little differently than you and me but desperately just want to fit in with everyone else and be accepted for the amazing people they are.

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