We don’t know whose lives we affect. Truthfully, we usually don’t even think about it. Why would we? We have no way of knowing who we’ve changed, and how. There is one person I know who has changed more lives than any other – my daughter, Namine. She has changed minds from pro-choice to pro-life. She has, through evidence of her own strength, will, and love, influenced others to choose not to abort their own disabled children. And this past Sunday, Jessica and I discovered an influence our little love had nearly two years ago that changed more lives than we could possibly imagine.
You might recall a little benefit dinner our church put together for Namine. It started out small, just a desparate cry for help from a small, struggling family. Namine was still in the hospital; this was only September of 2008, and she would be hospitalized for quite some time to come. (At this point, she had only had one heart surgery; January of the coming year would see her second.) But as news of this benefit spread through word of mouth, more people came than we expected. Even more people, even those who couldn’t attend, sent money. We had hoped for even something a simple as $200 to help us with hospital bills. When all was said and done, we were staggered by the result: over $40,000. Yes, you read that right. That money kept us afloat. It helped with not just hospital bills, but also rent and other day to day bills. I was out of work too often, with both my wife and daughter in the hospital, and thanks to our church’s effort, we were able to keep our apartment. But the credit does not just go to the church. It was the people – not just members of our church, but friends, family, friends of friends, friends of family, family of friends, and more permutations than I could possibly enumerate, all these people – that made so much possible.
That money, as money is wont to do, has been gone for a long time now. The money is gone, but the more important thing, the memory, is not. We will never forget how much has been done for us. But time has a way of making us forget. We have not thought of that benefit dinner, having been over with so long ago, in such a long time. We have not forgotten, but neither has it been on our minds – until this past Sunday. You see, the benefit was not just a dinner and donations. There were also Christian artists who performed later that evening. One of them was a man named Mike Westendorf.
The night was a night of firsts all around. Of course it was the first time we’d attempt some sort of fund-raising benefit for Namine, but for Mike, it was the first time he’d done some sort of church fund-raising sort of event. And it was eye-opening, seeing complete strangers opening their hearts for someone they didn’t know – someone they hadn’t even met, because at this point Namine was still in the hospital. She wouldn’t come home yet for several months into the future. But to see God move through so many people was staggering. So much so that it changed the way he approached his ministry through music.
We had the pleasure of hearing Mike’s music again this past Sunday. At first, it just seemed to me that his music sounded familiar. But when I saw his name, something clicked for me and I knew we’d heard him play before: at Namine’s benefit. It seems so long ago; Namine has been through so much between then and now, it hardly seems like a mere two years. Less than two years, actually. But it seems like a lifetime.
After the service, Jessica and I came up to him to say hello. I honestly didn’t know if he’d remember us. After all, he was a musician, and he must meet so many people from church to church. Why should we be any special exception? No reason at all, I thought. But I was wrong. He told us that of course he remembered us, even though he’d never actually met Namine. It was her benefit dinner that inspired him to carry on, raising more events for other families in need, being God’s hand in bringing people together for those less fortunate. This eventually became Share The Hope. He was awed (as we still are) by how well Namine is doing, despite all that has beset her.
We just don’t know the impact our stories, and our lives, will have on others. I certainly had no idea that Namine had such a lasting impression on someone she didn’t even know. But God knew. He worked through us and Namine herself to spread His word and His Word. How awesome is that?