Are you familiar at all with 45 RPM records? Side A generally held the recording of a popular hit song that received a lot of radio air time. Side B was typically lesser known, less popular, sometimes never-played music.
Back in the 1960’s most homes with teenagers included stacks of these singles that were played on devices like pictured above. For you young folks, 45 RPM records were kind of similar to the size of a CD. But they just played one song on each side, instead of several on one side.
Side A of these records were generally played over and over, sung along with, danced to….. until they were worn out and rendered unusable. Side B was often ignored, seldom played, songs that might cause no one to sing along, or even leave on the player long enough to listen to the complete song.
But occasionally the B side turned out to be a well known song. I googled “B side songs that became hits” and the top song on the list was “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys. “God only knows what I’d be without you”.
Interestingly enough, that particular line of that particular song reminds me of the rest of the story for this post about the B side of life. God only knows….
I’ll never forget the day two years ago that I woke up to a text message on my phone from my sister telling me about a “full of cancer” diagnosis for a little girl we loved. And later on that day I was sitting in the office of our church when the words “Stage 4 Neuroblastoma” came across by text, confirming our fears for our family’s 8 year old Ella Grace.
Flipping our lives from Side A to Side B.
The months that Ella spent fighting cancer were just awful. She won the fight, healed in the arms of Jesus after her brave and painful journey. But her family is left with the question “What will we be without Ella?”
I became involved in a close way during Ella’s fight against cancer. From her time at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City I first became acquainted with a room at the hospital called the Parent’s Room. It was there that I witnessed the servant hearts of selfless individuals who would come into that room, prepare food that they purchased with their own money, and set up a meal. Family members of the very ill young patients were welcome to eat meals for free. The room was well equipped with comfortable furniture, televisions, computers, laundry equipment….. and other Parent Rooms were equipped with larger family rooms and nap rooms. Nearby the hospital were free standing homes that had been refurbished to comfortably accommodate families for longer term overnight stays.
It was my first experience with Ronald McDonald House and the wonderful service they provide. As I sat in that little Parent Room and watched the meal prep, my heart was touched in a way that is hard to put into words. I witnessed regular people meeting the needs of folks they did not know, might never see again….. reaching out to hurting parents going through the worst chapters of their lives.
And I commented to my niece Amy, who was there with me, that it must feel so good to be able to serve others in this way. To be able to spend a few hours out of a day, a few dollars from your pocket, and serve hurting people in such an important, such a tangible way. We both were overcome with gratitude for these folks.
When Ella’s battle took her to New York City I expected that big city Ronald McDonald House would be a different story. It really wasn’t. Same servant hearts, being the hands and feet of Jesus. I know that many of the people serving at RMH aren’t necessarily believers in Christ. I actually thanked one young man there working at the NYC RMH for “being the hands and feet of Jesus.” His response was silence, his face displayed that he really wasn’t interested in hearing my words. He wasn’t rude, and I didn’t press the issue. It’s okay. No harm done. I continued to express my deep gratitude to him. We were truly, truly grateful for the service they provided. It’s okay that he didn’t know he was being used by Jesus to meet needs and answer prayers!
The cool thing about Jesus? He can use anyone with a servant heart.
For me, the beauty of the B side has been a passion for volunteering at the local Ronald McDonald House. Because of my personal experience with Ella’s cancer treatment I can serve others in similar situations with a deeper compassion. I can’t explain to you in words what it feels like to be able to give back. It’s a heart deal. An action that changes your very soul. Being the hands and feet of Jesus.
The flip side of beautiful…. can still have beauty. Lasting beauty. Heart-changing beauty. Broken, but still deeply beautiful.
The thing is, you really need to be open to looking for the beauty in the B side. While it’s human nature to just dwell in a sad place, there is great therapy in stepping outside your comfort zone and reaching out in a way that you might never have dreamed of before your own personal tragic experiences. Ella’s mom, Abbi, along with several other members of Ella’s family, have done that in so many ways for other parents of critically ill children dealing with pediatric cancer.
Truthfully, it’s scriptural. God leads us through our own sad chapters to prepare us to help others in the same situation. “ the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.
If by chance you have some interest in volunteering, I would encourage you to find a nearby Ronald McDonald house. It can be as simple as checking their website for supplies they need, buying something from the list, and delivering the items to the specified location. You can also sign up on the website to prepare a meal with a few of your friends.
And next time you eat a meal at McDonald’s, consider putting a little cash in the collection container for Ronald McDonald House.