In 2012, we sponsored "Think Occasionally", a multi-day event intended to spread the word about the plight of Romania's abandoned children and share the story of Izidor Ruckel (one of the abandoed children featured on 20/20's expose). We presented to the Lake Norman community as well as Davidson College, Lake Norman Charter School, Woodlawn School, Cannon School and the Lake Norman Rotary Club. We were honored to have Tara Bahrampour and Michael Williamson of The Washington Post join us, as they followed Izidor for an upcoming article. It was truly an amazing several days that touched the hearts of many.
"Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight."
~ Albert Schweitzer ~
"Think Occasionally" Recap
As Halloween approaches I am always taken with the various and sundry characters that gather for a common purpose. It’s quite magical how the night is transformed into an ensemble of characters each as unique as the night is dark. I am equally struck by how each personality brightens that darkness. Children wait with great anticipation as to what they might discover inside their bags. As the night draws to a close, they rush home, pry open bags and watch contents fall one by one onto kitchen tables in the light where their sweet surprises can be easily exposed. Nimble, little fingertips go quickly about the business of sorting. They know what to expect, at least somewhat… there are always the trustworthy reliables… but once in awhile there is a treat so unexpected, a treat that adds so to the contents of the bag making it that much more special.
And so it was, with “Think Occasionally”.
We opened our doors expecting Izidor and Simona. We knew their stories and knew their characters well. We knew they would open eyes and expand hearts. And that, they did.
But as each new character arrived on the scene, the entourage grew. We had all gathered for one common purpose. And as each wrapper was slowly peeled away and its contents exposed, it soon became clear that each and every person brought with them a story of adversity. And each and every one of them had turned, or was in the process of turning, tragedy into triumph.
These were our sweet surprises.
A mom would enter the picture that had worked diligently to raise her Romanian born son into a young adult with a life full of meaning and purpose… A Washington Post reporter, who, as a young child, had fled Iran during the revolution of the 80’s, her family leaving everything they had built behind, now embraced her past and used her experiences to draw upon in her current life as an author and reporter… A Washington Post photographer who had grown up in the US foster care system, never adopted, just moving from family to family, from state to state through the system until adulthood at last arrived, an adulthood that now boasted a family with two beautiful daughters and Pulitzer prize winning photos… A foster dad who had, with great dedication and devotion, given freely of himself providing his newly acquired foster son a new chance at life… And the teen-age foster son who was struggling to make sense of it all.
Yes… all had a past of great struggle. All had risen above. And all found themselves deeply moved by each other.
As our week continued we encountered more sweet surprises and more unique characters that would join our common goal. A mother so moved by the stories she heard that she promptly left the presentation and went about the business of purchasing toys for the children at House of Angels. Others immediately offered financial support in acts of selfless giving. An adoptive mother, whose child never made it home from Romania due to the shutdown of international adoption, would volunteer her story for the documentary. Never forgetting the child that had slipped through her fingers, she was now giving her love and support to another beautiful little girl here in the US equally in need of a home. Our paths crossed with an empathetic man who recognized Izidor from the 20/20 episode he had seen some 11 years ago. The episode had so moved him that it planted the seed for his work with Romanian orphans. He has subsequently visited Romania nine times as a volunteer and is now eager to help House of Angels. A Rotarian with a grown son with special needs who has blossomed into a fabulous artist and who along the way had transformed his dad into one with great compassion and special heart for these special children. He too, was eager to help. There were occupational therapists that provided training and therapy tools and others came interested in volunteering their time in Romania.
We witnessed Romanian adoptees own and embrace their pasts. We witnessed the faces of many, many young people transform from looks of shock and despair, to expressions of enthusiasm, ready to serve the children of Romania as well as the exceptional children in our own Lake Norman community. And we witnessed the foster son, with so much to offer, find focus and drive, now determined to use his adversity for something positive.
Yes, these were our sweet surprises. And while Simona and Izidor came to inspire, as the week came to a close the three of us instead, found ourselves inspired.
On top of all these serendipitous surprises, you all shared more than $3,500 for the children at House of Angels, donated items for HoA and purchased nearly 50 of Izidor’s books. Izidor was able to begin the filming for his new documentary here on the streets of Davidson, the week before children would gather on the same streets, donned in costume, and in great anticipation of their own sweet surprises.
It was an amazing, amazing week. We are so grateful to everyone who attended. Without all of you sharing your time with us, it would not have been a success. To Davidson College, Woodlawn School, Cannon School, Lake Norman Charter, the Lake Norman Rotary Club, and Homewood Suites, we thank you for opening your doors and hearts to us. To Izidor & Simona, who worked tirelessly giving a total of 10 presentations, thank you for opening the eyes and expanding the hearts of our Lake Norman youth. To all those who helped promote the events, to all those who made donations, to all who purchased books and to all those who uplifted Izidor, Simona and me, THANK YOU. We now feel empowered to continue the work of spreading awareness about the plight of Romania’s abandoned children and empowered to continue the business of providing opportunity so that these children might too find themselves able to rise above their adversity.