Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Life-Giving Power of Community

During the past week, a close-knit group of people have been holding vigil at Children's Medical Center here in Dallas. The focus of everyone's concern is little seven-year-old Tatum Null.

For some unknown reason Tatum experienced complete liver failure and lapsed into a coma early last week. Friday afternoon doctors performed a liver transplant. She continues her struggle to live. The group continues its vigil.

Please pray for little Tatum. She is a very special person. This world needs Tatum.

As I have moved in and out of the group that waits for her improvement and recovery, I have been struck by the power of the community that has taken up residence in the "Family Waiting Room." Scores of people have been in and out all week long. Talk about extended family! The Nulls have been surrounded by an incredible group of friends and family, many from their church.

Of course, this is what community does best. It rises to the occasion of a member's need. The social capital in that room has been priceless this week. The family has been supported, carried, sustained and empowered to endure their ordeal by the presence of this genuine, authentic experience of community.

As I have experienced the joy and strength of this community on vigil for one little girl and her family, I couldn't help but think of how I have seen the power of community at work in the inner city.

Lots of poor folks struggle in isolation. Being alone only magnifies the problems and challenges they face individually and as families. Often when people come to us for "help," what they really need is simple human connection. Usually we are able to provide that. Whether in our resource center where hundreds of low-income volunteers work, or in an employment circle where new friends are found on a quest for a job, or in the church that seeks to engage the reality of the neighborhood, people tend to find belonging and support in the community that emerges.

As I have been waiting on little Tatum with her parents in the midst of their supportive community, I have thought of so many other friends of mine. Friends transformed by the love and the presence of genuine community. Very poor friends who came with virtually nothing, but who today are much stronger, much healthier and much more full of purpose and resolve.

The fact is people find power and strength and new life in community.

Tatum and her countless friends have reminded me of this wonderful truth this week.

Please pray for her full recovery.


Derek Wilson said...

"Often when people come to us for 'help,' what they really need is simple human connection."

I've found the same thing in the people I have worked with. More than money, the inner city is in desperate need of love and community. Money only goes so far in providing "help" for people.

Russ Herring said...

"It is with tears in my eyes that I leave this comment. I am the granddaddy
of Tatum Null.

My life has been forever changed over the past 10 days. Tatum went from a
vivacious little 7 year old to fighting for her life in 3 days. We have
learned a lot about the "family waiting room" at Children's Hospital in
Dallas, TX. This is just a large room in which families and friends
anxiously await for the next development of their family member in ICU.
This room knows nothing about denominational / religious, race, social, or
economic boundaries. Your soul hurts so deeply, any kind of encouraging word
from anyone in the room is welcomed. In the face of fear, emotional hurt,
deep loneliness, and desperation, we all need a touch of kindness and
understanding. Even eye contact helps. There is no pretense here. There
are no boundaries.

Tatum had a liver transplant last Friday, March 11. She is recovering in
remarkable ways. Others have not been so fortunate.

For the remainder of my life, I will never forget the "family waiting room."
Within the next day or two, Tatum will move to another floor in the
hospital. I plan to return to the "family waiting room" on the ICU floor
until Tatum leaves the hospital. I hope that God will use me to bring hope
to someone in pain and agony."