Pay It Forward Weekend Begins . . . Now!
Did you know that today is the first day of national “Pay it Forward” weekend?
Yep, it’s true.
I’ll always remember the feeling I had the first time I was the recipient of a random act of kindness. As trite as this sounds, you could not have wiped the smile off of my face for anything the time I pulled up to pay for a Starbucks coffee, only to be told that the driver ahead of me had already taken care of it as well as the four cars behind me. It was really a thrill. Not because I didn’t have to fork over the $4.00 I held in my extended hand, but rather because experiencing the generosity of a stranger is life altering, even if it’s for something as insignificant as a cup of coffee.
That being said, I’d like to begin this weekend that’s focused on giving by introducing you to one of our friends. He’s an unsung hero who has touched so many people’s lives; he’s someone who takes offering generosity to strangers to a whole new level.
For the past 26 years, Warren Goerke and his family have passionately played guardian angel to countless children in need of cardiac-related surgeries from around the world. Warren doesn’t just talk or write about it, he actually does it. He walks the talk. As a District 726 Rotary member on Long Island, Warren participates in their “Gift of Life” program, which arranges and pays for the travel, surgery, and care during surgical recovery for children from under-privileged countries around the world such as Trinidad, Honduras, Zimbabwe, Korea, Guyana and Uganda.
In addition to raising their six adopted children, several with special needs, Warren and his wife, Karen, have generously opened their home to sick children and their guardians for the past quarter of a century. Their first floor guest room has, at times, been in almost continuous rotation. Most of the children have recovered amazingly well and have gone on to live healthy lives. As Warren puts it, “Children heal quickly, especially cardiac patients. Kids come with blue lips and fingertips, barely able to walk across the room without getting tired and out of breath. A few days after surgery, they are playing and running with other kids. The average stay is only 4 to 6 weeks.”
Here are some of the kids who have been helped by the Gift of Life program. According to Gift of Life International, “Over 5.5 million children are born each year with a congenital heart defect, while 94% of them do not have access to treatment.”
A few of his young guests, however, have been diagnosed with irreversible and inoperable damage, and two have passed away while in their care. Yet, despite the heartache that is, at times, inherent with the program, as well as their own personal trials and tribulations, the Goerkes have continued to give back.
Coming to the U.S. is a whole new reality for Warren’s visitors. The way of life these children and their parents are used to often varies vastly from our reality. “Many of these children have no electricity or running water in their homes. There is no such thing as a central vac or a toilet. Their kitchen range may be a mud brick oven in the backyard. As a host, you have to teach them how to use every device that we take for granted. One day I came home from work to find one of the mothers holding an ear of corn with both hands, roasting it over an open flame on our gas range. I laughed, asked, ‘What time is dinner?’ and went upstairs. You just need to have patience.”
Recently, Warren and Karen had the opportunity to travel to Trinidad to visit with some of the children they had hosted over the years. Warren recalls, “I was impressed that an entire small village came out to meet and celebrate with us. One of the children that “Gift of Life” saved got married last year. Without surgical intervention, he would have never survived past his teens.”
“I am convinced that the way to world peace and understanding is through helping children.”
Truer words have never been spoken, my friend.
We don’t all have the innate ability or means to do all that Warren and Karen have done for hundreds of children, but each of us has the means to positively impact others through our words and deeds.
Sadly, sometimes bad things happen to good people. Warren is currently housebound, suffering from the ill effects of leukemia and its treatments, but I’m happy to say that he’s getting stronger every day. He’s also a loyal PonderMomDotCom follower, so he’s bound to read this post, um, right Warren?
I bet his day would be brightened exponentially by hearing words of thanks and encouragement from any of you reading this today, strangers and friends alike, in the message area below. Or go ahead and share Warren’s story with your friends to help celebrate the awe-inspiring person that he is. Pass it on.
Paying it forward is simple, and it starts here and now!
Enjoy your Pay it Forward surprise, Warren!
We love you!
If you’re looking for a fun way to pay it forward, take a look at this: Pillowcase Dresses