This article was originally published in the COURIER-POST newspaper on January 1, 2001.
As the New Year begins, I’m sure we all find ourselves making resolutions that we have every intention of keeping. We’ll lose 10 pounds. We’ll exercise more. We’ll eat better. We’ll donate more to charity. But will we be good people? Will we be kind? Caring? Concerned? Will we make a difference in the lives of those around us?
This year, I resolve to make a difference. I resolve to learn from a lesson taught to me by my own daughter. Her name was Emily Bernadette. She showed others the value of life. She made a difference.
Special little girl, you may think, to have accomplished so much. She was. She was unique, beautiful, and determined. She was five days old when she died. She accomplished more in those five days than many do in a lifetime comprised of decades. She was a survivor, a fighter, a teacher. She was amazing.
Emily wasn’t supposed to live at all. She had a genetic syndrome called Trisomy 18 – an extra 18th chromosome in every cell of her body. The doctors called it "incompatible with life." Emily proved them wrong. She was born alive and she lived. She cried. She wiggled. She snuggled into her father’s arms and into my own, and she showed everyone who met her just what life is all about.
I realized how much she affected others as I sat in church last Sunday. At the end of mass, the woman in front of us turned to wish us a Merry Christmas. Her eyes filled with tears and her chin quivered. You see, she knew Emily. She was one of a dozen caring nurses who played a role in Emily’s birth and brief life. She knew and was moved by the strength of that little girl.
How many times do we stop to think about the impact one life can have on others? How many times do we really stop to think about what we can accomplish? Something as simple as holding the door, saying thank you, or letting someone else go first can brighten another’s day. Something as simple as a smile can make a difference. Can we do more than that? Of course we can. But maybe it’s the simple acts of kindness with which we should resolve to start.
Maybe once we start to smile more, we’ll care more. Maybe once we care more, we’ll think more. Maybe once we think more, we’ll come to realize that every life is precious. Every life is a gift. Maybe we’ll reach out to those in need – those who are alone, or hungry, or sad. Maybe we’ll find time to drive a neighbor to a doctor’s appointment or to church. Maybe we’ll find time to donate food to the food bank, or clothes to a homeless shelter. Maybe we’ll realize that each of us can play a role in this community that we call our own…the human race.
I watched a five-day-old little girl make a difference in the lives of her family, her nurses, her doctors, and complete strangers. I felt my heart grow three sizes – just like the Grinch. I always thought I was a good person. Now I realize that maybe I wasn’t as good as I thought. Maybe I was more caught up in the daily routine than I realized. A tiny little girl taught me to slow down, to listen, to think. I intend to remember this lesson for the rest of my life.