Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rachel Beckwith's Message of Love

The image above has become iconic in the last month, globally, and it can be found in most languages spoken in the world. The particular articles cannot be understood if you don't speak the particularly language, but the name of "Rachel Beckwith" is clear and the face of a sweet young girl. Through her pure spirit and heart, Rachel continues to impact the world, maybe as much, if not more than, any other current living figure. In her death, she has achieved a level of global impact that most of us will never know.

In searching foreign language news sites, I have found her story and her cause (in no particular order) in Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Indonesia, India, Pakastan, Italy, Greece, Germany, Switzerland, France, UK, Norway, Romania, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina, .... and countless other countries. While Rachel and her family are Christians and the initial effort started with their church, not only Christians have been touched by this story - for every Faith have responded - maybe showing that while we all seem different and our beliefs may be different in some aspects, there is a fundamental notion of goodness that is in us all. That aspect wants peace, love, respect and hope to live openly in the world. Rachel has shown us a small glimpse of that Glory at the worst time of her short life. Each article that tells her story consistently shows that this little girl has changed us, somehow, and we all see that as something for the better.

Her life reminds me of the song from the Broadway show, WICKED ("For Good"), where the lyrics go, "It well may be that we will never meet again, in this lifetime, so let me say before we part, so much of me is made from what I learned from you, you'll be with me like a handprint on my heart." Elsewhere the song says, "But because I knew you, I have been changed for good." Because of the tragic death of Rachel, for which we all share our greatest sympathies with her family and friends, we nonetheless have been changed - as a world - for good.

Only time will reveal how this evolves. But what we do know is that Rachel had some sort of impact on literally millions, if not billions of people - from every corner of the world. At the moment while I was writing this blog, Rachel's fund is at $1,187,624 in under one month after her accident, much of this from other children.

The actual figure changes so consistently, though, that it will be as old news as any other post that notes a figure for her. Who knows where the figure will end, either. Only time will tell that, too.

Charity: Water's founder Scott Harrison talks with excitement about his plans to take Rachel's mother, Samantha Paul, to Africa in a year, so she can see the impact that her daughter's life is having. Currently Rachel will ensure that 60,000+ (and likely many, many more) people will be provided clean water and have their lives allowed to bloom. For countries that take basics for granted, there will be "Rachel's wells" in countless communities who don't have the basics - whose beneficiaries will likely know the significance of Rachel's life, and death, even before the well team shows up and reveals the gift to them. Rachel apparently planted a garden that exists not only of the lives she will save, but also the spirit of all those who watch the change. We all can believe that if a small child in Seattle can impact the world, we all can. For other children, Rachel showed that they can and should make a difference, no matter how "small." For adults, Rachel inspired us to believe that with alittle watering, too, our optimism can also rebloom.

What I have also noticed is that the impact of Rachel's story is as much an aspect of her mother's heart. If we all know inherently that Rachel was an angel no longer with us, my true sense of her mother is that Samantha is an angel still with us. In the aftermath when many who grieve would wall themselves off to the world, and cry to Heaven, "Why did you take her!! God!!," Samantha instead wanted to ensure that Rachel's wish is fulfilled, and works tirelessly to achieve as much as possible for Rachel. Even recently, Sam put out a call to the world to encourage children to help other children, by saying this on Facebook:

"Special request to all kids returning to school in the next few weeks: If you see someone who is struggling to make friends or being bullied because he/she doesn't have many friends, because they are shy, or not as pretty or not dressed in the most "in" clothes .. PLEASE step up. Say hi or at least smile at them in the hallway. You never know what that person might be facing outside of school. Your kindness might just make a BIG difference in someone's life! PARENTS PLEASE REPOST THIS!!!" Samantha Paul.

I hope everyone who finds this blog will forward this message along the same pathways that took Rachel's original story to every corner of the globe. Rachel and her mother, Samantha, were clearly intended to do something profound, for which we should follow. I do not know where it will all lead, but I do sense we are supposed to go with them. I hope you will come, too.

Lastly, I write this entry in equal memory to my friend Lori Tullos Barta, who died a year ago on August 19, 2010, when her life support was removed following complications from heart surgery; Lori was 39 and was survived by a husband, Adam, and three young children, one with special needs. Lori sent out her own message to the world many years ago upon the birth of her daughter, Hannah, who has Down Syndrome:

"Bottom line, [the expert] said, is that there is no cure and Hannah will never be ‘normal.’ We walked into the meeting with hope and came out feeling numb and apprehensive about the future. Well, I refuse to accept that .... What is ‘normal’ anyway and why is that something to strive for? What is it that I really want for my children?
"When I strip away all the misplaced expectations and get down to basics, my wish for [my children] is this: (1) That they will be HAPPY; (2) That they will know they are LOVED and love others; and (3) That this world will be a better place because they are a part of it. So here I take the first step in trying to ensure that others love and value our children (and all children) as much as we do . .
"When it comes to the TRULY important things in life, we need to start valuing individuals – with all their assets and limitations – and stop placing labels on our children! It has to start somewhere if we want this world to be a better place for them.”
Lori Tullos Barta.

I believe that our Lori in Heaven will look for Rachel. While we don't know why such good people have to die, we can ask ourselves how can we honor their memories and make the world a place, worthy of their time in it. Whether it is Rachel or Lori, or countless other wonderful people whose deaths were tragic, the job is left to the living. I only ask, "what will you do?"

UPDATE: Sept 1, 2011. Today a donation was made to Rachel's fund, from a person who was a recipient of her kidney. I thought it was good to note:

The comment states, "On July 24th, I received a phone call that a kidney had become available for me and was being flown down from Bellevue Washington to Sacramento California and that it was from a 9 year old child who died in a car accident. At 10pm that night I was wheeled into surgery for a transplant operation. I am so profoundly touched by the gererousity and kindness of Rachaels family to donate her organs that day. I am now the proud owner and care giver of one of Rachaels kidneys. My health has done a complete 180 degree turn around since the operation. I am off dialysis and feel just fantastic. I had my life returned to me and as repayment to Rachael, I plan to carry her charitable torch for the rest of my life. Thank you to the Beckwith family, you have a friend for life. Mark J"

UPDATE: Sept 7, 2011. Today Rachel's other kidney recipient also posted on her fund and made a donation.

The comment states: "I also received a kidney from a nine year old girl on July 24th. I did not realize at the time that the gift was from an actual angel. I know the loss suffered by Rachel's family can never be healed, but I would at least like them to know that from the day of the operation, my life and that of my family has changed dramatically by the change in my health. Please know that Rachel lives on in the live's of those of us who have received the gift of life from her. I will always honor her memory and her support the charity in her name. Dave"


amyleah said...

Thank you for writing this and all you have done to bring Rachel's cause to light. I have an unusual connection to her story, a story that has changed me forever.

p.s. Wicked Reference - brilliant.

James T. Parsons said...

Hey amyleah, thanks for the comment. Connect to me offline if you like - my email is