Parenting, Relationships

The Four-Word Question That Changed Me

You know those friends you wish you could introduce to everyone?  You think, “Oh, I want so-and-so to meet her.  They’d really like each other!”  My friend, Chantel Adams, is one of those people.  She’s brimming with ideas and such a delicious spark of inspiration in my life and as I listened to her talk about her new company-for-a-cause, I just knew I had to introduce her to as many people as possible.  I’ve invited her to tell you about her new project, ForeverWE, because it is SO COOL.  Blog friends, this is Chantel.  Chantel, blog friends.

The Four-Word Question That Changed Me

by Chantel Adams

“If you want to be a world-changer, you have to be a noticer.” I don’t remember who told me those words, but they stuck. So I started noticing things.

The way people stand in line at the coffee shop.

The moms in their bathrobes at the bus stop.

Without looking like a freak, I paid more attention to the things people said, as well.

As a mom, there’s always something to be paying attention to. Like first steps, and first words and first teeth, and to tell you the truth, I thought I would never forget those important milestones, but I did. After four kids, they’ve all just sort of morphed together.

You always think it’s the big things in life that you’re going to remember forever, but it’s actually the small ones that stick out for me. In my head, I hear snippets of conversations that changed my perspective. I like to write them down, so I won’t forget. Just a sentence or two a day.

The words dredge up emotion—good and bad—and sometimes the memories they evoke bring tears.

I’m usually not sad, simply surprised.

Pay attention to your tears, especially unexpected ones, because they will tell you something about yourself.

That’s how I felt the day this simple four-word question began hijacking my ordinary thoughts.

Because I have a job where I spend a lot of time with 4th and 5th girls, I have the privileged opportunity to hear the kinds of conversations of which most moms can only dream. One day last year we toured a homeless shelter. They visited a 12 x 10 room where a family of five live and share a bathroom with another family. In the basement, they learned how some residents learn powerful life skills like balancing a checkbook, shopping for groceries, and disciplining their kids. They saw the room where after school almost 20 kids go to do their homework and play until their parents return home from job-hunting. They explored the kitchen where 50 people, including 35 kids, share their meals every evening. Potential volunteers raised their hands to ask questions like, What percentage of your residents retain stable housing after leaving the shelter? How many of your kids are on the honor roll? How do you delegate responsibility in the house?

But our kids just had one question.

“How can I help?” they asked.

Instantly, my eyes pooled with water, and I blinked back the tears. After all the other things I saw that day, these words, uttered by a 10-year-old girl, stung unexpectedly and caught me off guard.

Days passed, and my five-year-old daughter was getting ready to plan her birthday. I gave her a popular doll catalog, and she circled the things she wanted most. Then she taped the page to the front of our refrigerator. As I stood in my kitchen one morning after breakfast, I noticed that she circled the glasses, braces, cast, crutches, and wheelchair. Why did she want the things that represented brokenness?

“How can I help?” she asked.

My heart filled up, and my eyes spilled over.

I sat at my computer and opened up my email. My friend, Tami, was writing down her experiences as a parent with a child who had survived cancer for a survivors’ blog. She asked me to review it before she hit the “submit” button. So I did. And I remembered the time four years ago when she called me and told me about Audrey’s cancer. Again, I was standing in my kitchen with the phone pressed to my ear as I sliced vegetables for soup. “They’re rushing us into a room now,” she said. “We don’t know what it is, but it sounds scary.“

How can I help? I asked.

That question precedes so many more. It’s four words that can literally change the trajectory of a conversation, even someone’s life. The question communicates solidarity and empathy, two traits so rare in the world today. The words transform what is into what could be.

And suddenly, again just standing in my kitchen, surrounded by the morning dishes—dried scrambled eggs sitting in a pan on the stove and a sink filled with several half-full cups of chocolate milk, a hazy picture in my mind suddenly found clarity. I had a vision of my girls budding with compassion and kindness and doing what they do naturally to change the world. They wanted to help. Together what could we do? Not just, how can I help, but how can we help?

Children tell stories with their toys.

What if we created a doll that represented real issues kids are experiencing in the world today? And what if they could not only pretend to care for their needs, but do it in real life? What would that kind of play look like?  Could we change the way kids play and literally change the world?

I wanted to try. 

So we began work on our first Doll for a Cause, a cuddly companion that would represent the real issues kids are experiencing in the world today. We wrote a book and began exploring what it would look like to partner with organizations that were already doing the most to support the initiatives we felt were important. At ForeverWE, we believe every child deserves a healthy body, a forever family, and safe housing. That’s why we would love for you to meet Jewel. In honor of my friend, Tami, and her daughter, Audrey, we have partnered with the Rally Foundation for pediatric cancer research. Jewel comes with a removable wig, two outfits, a pediatric cancer awareness ribbon, and a courage bead. She’s the first in what we hope will be a long line of dolls that address important childhood issues. For every doll purchased, we’ll give a doll to a child undergoing cancer treatment.

Will you help us?

Please visit www.foreverwe.org for more information about our dolls, to register for our launch party on September 25th or to pre-order Jewel, our first Doll for a Cause.

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