I held it together pretty well until he asked them to stand.
We were at David Douglas High School, a large local high school in our neighborhood. We had to wait until the end of the assembly, so it was all I could do to keep my kids entertained while an impressive array of music and athletic awards were announced. Then it was our time. I hoped I looked appropriately grateful, appropriately needy, appropriately whatever.
The coach walked to the center of the gym, packed to the rafters with all 3,000 students, and I followed with my double stroller and matching twins who don't quite match.
He talked about the Sparrow Club and how Malachi has cerebral palsy and how they're raising money for our medical costs and how ticket-holders can win prizes, etc., etc. Then he did something I was not prepared for.
He said: "Anyone in this room who would like to help out this family, I'd like you to do one thing right now. I'd like you to stand up."
Group by group, in rapid succession, they all did. They all did. I clutched my child in the middle of a gymnasium with 3,000 people — almost all teenagers, often stereotyped as self-absorbed — saying with their entire bodies that they wanted to help.
I was so overwhelmed, I regret to say I couldn't even really look at them.
But for the first time in a very long time, I didn't feel like a victim. I didn't feel lost and out of control. For the first time in a very long time, I cried tears of joy and gratitude and relief. I marveled at the exquisite beauty and immense power of human compassion. I marveled that so many people from so many cultures, political persuasions and backgrounds could all agree on one thing: Yes, I want to help you.
They know nothing about us. They met us literally minutes ago. But they want to help simply because someone had the temerity to ask.
As we left the building, the coach apologized. He said he hadn't meant to make me sad. It took me a minute to figure out what he meant.
"Oh, no," I said, thinking of all the times I'd cried since Malachi's diagnosis, "these are happy tears. There haven't been many happy tears these last two years."
And then I said: "Thank you."
Thank you, David Douglas students. Thank you for allowing me to cry happy tears.