I absolutely LOVE the Make-A-Wish foundation, and I'll tell you why. Wise parents will tell you that one of the core aspects of raising a child is the emotional stability and safety in the belief that the parent will protect the child, never let anything life threatening happen to the child, and the child's life will not be interrupted by trauma. This world view of stability and safety is paramount (though not absolutely necessary) in creating emotional well being in children and children who cannot have this growing up are due our respect.
Because these kids know what every parent knows: such security is a lie. The parent does not have the power to protect the child from all harm, the parent cannot always halt encroaching threats to life should they thinkable occur. The parent cannot always provide an uninterrupted life for the child. Understanding that these are fabrications can be a major step in growing up and coming to terms for mortality and the limits of one's power and children who must learn this early often grow up quickly.
Wise parents of such children tell me that the best thing they can do in such situations, like when a child has a life threatening illness, is to stress the sentiment on which the fable of stability is founded: we care about you. Emotional intimacy is hard to describe with words, harder still to describe to children. We are mostly evolved to show such emotion through gestures like hugging and spending time with one another. For children who have an extreme need for such a gesture, who are at risk of giving up on themselves, an extreme gesture is required.
That is where the Make a Wish Foundation comes in. They can't take away the illness these children suffer from, but they can offer a gesture on behalf of the child's support structure, on behalf of society itself. Which is why it feels so right to me that the gesture the Foundation is giving five year old Miles, who is battling leukemia. Miles wants to be Batman for a day (that day is the 15th of November) and the Foundation is asking that San Franciscans come out and ask Miles to save them.
I understand, fairly well I think, why Miles wants to be Batman. Most kids, I am told, ask the Foundation to meet someone heroic to them, but Miles wants to BE heroic. I cannot speak for Miles, but I can empathize. When I was a kid I was very sickly. Born premature, unable to make a number of hormones, including growth hormones, I was in and out of the hospital every year. I had five major surgeries before I even TURNED five. My premature eyes were near blind. While nothing I had was life threatening, I was in an invalid state from early on. There were a seemingly vast amount of things I could not do because of my eyesight. I had to carry around a case of injectable hormones and have them shot into me five out of six nights of the week. I felt worse than useless, I felt like people HAD to take care of me. I was a burden on everyone around me. I thought I had no value.
I would have given anything to take care of other people the way they had to take care of me, just for one day. It would be incredible to feel like I had the power, that I was the active one, helping people instead of being helped. I didn't want to help myself, I was just so tired of feeling in debt to everyone around me. What a single day of heroism could have done for my sense of self is incalculable, but not deniable. I cannot say that this is what is going through Mile's head, but I feel some kindred spirit there.
This is why I love the Make a Wish Foundation. Though they get far more petitions than they can fulfill, they do what they can to focus on a kid and change their life. When you are in the hospital constantly, when you feel useless and a burden on others, a day like that can really change your perspective, it can really give you hope. That is why, on November 15th, at 12:45, I will be taking my planning period and head over to Union Square. I will join the flash mob there (RVSP here) And do my best to show my need for Batkid to save the day.
Hopefully, if we can show this kid he's needed, he will walk away believing he is valuable. Maybe he'll remember this day when his fight with leukemia turns brutal, I hope he will keep on fighting. By letting this kid save me, I want him to learn how to save himself.
More details about the event can be found here.