When someone precious to us dies, we frantically try to figure out all that stuff that we didn't have in common.
Who were they really? What thoughts did they have before falling asleep at night? Why did they enjoy so much the things that we couldn't relate to?
Although, as my daughter, I knew her very well, I didn't know Avery as a classmate, or as a friend, or as another kid in gymnastics class. Who was she when she wasn't my daughter?
I had always known that Avery felt called to help others. She was drawn to the kid who sat alone, felt the need to protect the kid who was made fun of for being too nerdy, felt it her duty to extend her hand to those who had fallen.
I just didn't understand why.
I knew that she would spend her life quietly fighting for others, unafraid to hug the less fortunate or the sick. I foresaw her heading out on mission trips, moving to a third world country to take care of orphans in order to teach them about Jesus Christ and the importance of clean water.
I just didn't understand what made her want to do this.
After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Avery felt an even more immediate - almost desperate - need to help. Even though she was only 7, she took the country on like it was her own flesh and blood. She raised money. She raised awareness. She begged me to adopt as many orphans as I could, explaining that (even if I thought we didn't have enough compared to our US neighbors) we could share our clean water. We could share our food. We could share our beds.
She offered to sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag so kids from Haiti could sleep in her bed. And she suggested we transform the dining room into a bedroom. With four bunk beds we could change the lives of 8 girls.
One of my favorite moments was when she brought this letter to me:
She was so serious about saving the people of Haiti.
After Avery died, I spent a lot of time looking at her things. She didn't have much. True to her form, she wasn't interested in material things. She valued experiences more than items. But the few items she did have told a beautiful story.
References to God in the margins of a book. Highlighted passages in her Bible. Letters she received from her friend, Ashley, planning sleepovers. And in her spiral notebook from school, multiple pages of the same letter started and stopped and scribbled through; her way of trying to find the right words to convince her classmates that more needs to be done to help Haiti. "We cannot forget them!" she writes passionately.
If God so allows, I believe there is an 11-year old, fair-skinned angel watching over the orphans in Haiti as we speak.
Since we started AVERYday Ministries we have financially supported 4 different people headed to Haiti to make a difference. Four. In less than a year. That makes me think Avery would be pretty proud.
Last summer, we also sent a pair of her tennis shoes and some awesome t-shirts. To think there are little kids walking around in a bit of Avery warms my heart.
It didn't surprise me when I was contacted about an upcoming mission trip organized through Children's World Impact. Avery had gone to school with a sweet young boy named Cody and his mother was now planning to go to Haiti for this first time this January. She wanted to ask if there were another pair of shoes or some clothes I'd like to send down. What she ended up asking was if I wanted to go, too.
The problem was, the deadline was the next day. And it was already getting late. There was no way to know I could even get ahold of anyone. The director was understandably very busy. Also, I had no idea how I would handle the cost. I did just quit my job and all. And what skills do I have? I've never been on a mission trip before. I hadn't even heard of them until I had kids of my own.
I ultimately told Anna that if it was God's will to have me go to Haiti, He'd see to it that it was done. If He didn't want me to go, He'd see to that to. It was in God's hands.
I dialed the number for the director. He answered on the first ring.
After talking with him I realized who he was: although I didn't know him personally, he had been one of our main supporters for the Jamie Grace concert we held in Avery's honor.
Dots were connecting.
At the first informational meeting I saw not just one mom of Avery's classmates - but several! At the end of the meeting another woman approached me. She told me that while her daughter was much younger than Avery, they had gone to day care (at Mary Jo's) together. She told me she remembered Avery's sweetness and gentleness with her young daughter.
That wasn't all; several relatives (aunts & uncles) of a sweet, sweet boy in Avery's class were also scheduled to go on this trip! It was Jonny who organized a raspberry picking fundraiser; Jonny who carried his remembrance ribbon to school with him; Jonny who painted a beautiful portrait of Avery that hangs proudly on my wall. And it was Jonny who was responsible for those All Day Avery Day t-shirts to be sent to Haiti this past summer.
I looked around this room and saw over and over people who knew Avery. Who had talked with her, saw her in the halls at school or while dropping off kids for day care. Who had learned who she was through a young nephew. Who felt compelled to support the ministry of a little girl who just loved Jesus.
I saw all these people and I knew....
this is Avery's trip.
I'm just so grateful to get to go along for the ride.
I'll be travelling to Haiti on January 6, 2014. Assisting on a medical mission trip through Children's World Impact.
The orphanage we'll be working with is in need of some items; I'm asking for these items in lieu of Christmas gifts. So, as much as I'd love a Starbucks gift card, it seems pretty ridiculous when I realize these kids are going without some of the essentials. [One of the things we were cautioned about was eating in public. We were asked to eat privately away. What does it look like to pull out a granola bar from your back pack when some of these kids haven't eaten in two days? Kind of makes that Starbucks habit of mine look utterly pathetic.]
Underwear and panties
[Ladies: sizes 2T to ladies 7]
[Men: sizes 2T to men’s medium]
(the boys prefer the boxer brief style)
(the boys prefer the boxer brief style)
Diapers size 3, 4 & 5
Diapers size 3, 4 & 5
(the scented pods are great)
dresses for women & girls
or any dress clothes for boys & men
I will be accepting donations of the above until December 31st.
So, when you're out doing your last minute Christmas Shopping, feel free to pick up a pack of underwear or some laundry pods. It'll be the best Christmas gift you can give!
[You can drop items off at my house, or contact me to arrange a pick up!]
If you feel led to financially support this mission trip - or future trips, you can donate online at www.childrensworldimpact.o
rg or you can mail a check to:
Children's World Impact
N7176 Lakeshore Avenue
Elkhorn, WI 53121.
When donating, please note “Bridget McCarthy” with any form of payment. (This ensures that the donations are credited towards my portion of expenses for the project.) All donations are tax deductible.
I'm pretty sure I'll never get the chance while on earth to learn every detail of who Avery was and what made her tick, but I believe visiting the country Avery loved so much is going to give me an insight to her soul I wouldn't get otherwise. I believe this trip is God coordinated and is about to change my entire outlook on the world.
And I'm positive Avery is squealing with delight - not just because her Mama is going, but because her Mama is doing something that we didn't necessarily have in common when she was alive. I'm meeting her in her place. Not in mine. As parents, especially, we need to do that more often. Seek out your child's interests and meet them there. Don't just rely on the things you have in common to build a lasting relationship.