The Toughest Part is Good-Bye…

As we board the plane headed for Shanghai, I reflect on the last few weeks with a sense of wonder.  What a truly profound experience.  The Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City… all seem to pale in comparison to meeting our new family and friends at The New Hope Foundation.

It’s beginning to dawn on me that the toughest part of our journey will be the “good-byes”.  Saying farewell to our new pals was pure anguish.    Ray-Ray, Au Jun, Mao Mao, Luke, Shannon, Katie, Dr. Joyce and Robin, Dr. Steve & The Martins, The Moore Family, all the mamas ( nurses) and so many others.

My kids and I have had the great honor of experiencing the lives of some remarkable children.  Each one welcomed us, allowed us to be part of their daily routines, shared their warmth, their laughter, their tears… I know it sounds a tad melodramatic, but I’m at a loss for how else to express the immensity of our experience and love for these kids.

These guys aren’t just your average kids.  As fate would have it, they have been lucky enough to be taken in by the New Hope Foundation … their lives changed forever.   Each of these kids comes with a tragic tale of abandonment, physical challenge, and very little hope for a future.

But because the stars aligned, or god blessed them, or the random-ness of the universe would deem it so, these guys won the lottery thanks to Dr. Joyce and Robin Hill.  Saved from either sure death or an uncertain existence of pain and suffering, these kids have received the medical attention to either walk again, smile again, talk again, see again, or just to live again.  And it’s all topped with a ton of loving kindness and nurturing from the incredible staff at The New Hope Foundation.

My experience with these kids is hard to describe.  Quiet moments with them sitting on my lap, or carrying them in my arms, or just waving and smiling from across the room… from playing in a plastic ball pit, to the jungle gym outside, or swimming with the kids in the pool.  Greeted in the morning with Ni Hao… which means hello… with smiles… hugs, extended hands with the hopes of being held… all this has truly had a deep effect on me.  Cathartic really…

See, I fancied myself a guy who knew the world.  Who had a rough and tumble childhood myself with tons of tragedy of my own.   With a loss of both of my parents by the age of 8, I thought I had joined the ranks of hard knocks…

But I’m the luckiest man alive… I have two beautiful healthy boys, my own health, a cool career, friends and family that are there for me…. Life is good.  I have a new gauge in which to count my blessings.

And still one has to think of all the kids who don’t have the good fortune of being one of the chosen few at New Hope.  Of the kids all over the world who still suffer and sit at death’s door without someone to come along and save them.  I wish for a million New Hope Foundations…   I guess there will always be kids to save on the planet….  I honor the people that find it in the hearts to be selfless and make a difference.

Here is the link to a short film on The New Hope Foundation:

Oh, yeah,   The Great Wall was awesome.  I took a moment to remember my tribe who spoke up and were heard at Tiananmen Square… Got a kick out of standing in front of the huge picture of Mao hanging over the entrance to The Forbidden City….   And walking through the Forbidden City made me want to see The Last Emperor again and wish I could have lived at that time and experienced the majesty of all that… of course as royalty….

So we are being spoiled on two fronts.   The joys of experiencing the awe of different sights and cultures, and secondly and most importantly,  the joys of being of service.  I hope that our efforts here abroad make a small dent in these angels hearts… because they have opened ours fully.

We’ll be in Shanghai for a few days and then on to Hong Kong to meet the doctors who actually do the surgeries on these kids.   Their’s is an interesting story which I’ll report on from there.

And, of course, I’ll give you an update in Shanghai….   Anxious to check it out and the boys and I will look out for Shanghai Lil.   We’ll let you know if we come across her.

P.S. –  Big Shout out to LEGO!   They came through with their promise and Buck has been giving out huge shipments of Lego to all the kids.  The kids in our locations are loving them!

Guess the joys of Lego is just universal!!!  Play on….


Oh J.D. – Once again you have made me cry. I can not express how inspiring it is to read your posts and can’t begin to imagine the depth of feelings you feel experiencing with these beautiful beings. What a profound experience indeed. I’m just in awe and your dispatches are just brilliant. You and the boys are touching so many lives. Love to you and them. P.S. I love the bit about the Legos – it’s a small world after all…. BIG BIG LOVE TO YOU!

Man what a moving experience! You have captured the feeling of what an incredible place this is and what wondrous work the Foundation performs. I can only imagine how deeply your lives have been touched and what an impact they made on you and I am sure that you guys touched their hearts also. I know the goodbyes will be hard (I am sure of that!) But the next wonderful adventure lies ahead. I am so excited that Lego came through and know that the kids are thrilled to have those. I’m sure Buck & Jackson were able to share their skills with Legos. Continued wonderful & safe journeys. In my prayers. Hugs to all. xoxo-Ed

So beautifully written JD. I wish I could be with you guys. There’s nothing better than giving and receiving love and hugs to these precious kids! It does my heart wonders to read your blog. Tell Jack and Buck their uncle Bob loves them and is so proud of them. Take care my brothernas you go to other life changing adventures.

Isn’t it amazing how others live put yours into perspective?! Youand the boys are our hero’s and we are so proud of all you are doing! Keep up the love! Let’s Skype soon! Let me know when is good for you!

WOW! Thank you for bringing your experience alive for me! I read it through tears. I’m so proud of what you’re doing and for sharing your “servant’s heart”. I miss you guys so much, but wouldn’t wish you back here and miss this time in your lives! Please give Jack and the Lego Ambassador huge hugs and lots of love for me! I love you my precious brother and pray for you every day!! xoxo

Oh dear Lord in Heaven …! just by reading your post, anybody can tell how touched you’ve been by these las days in Beijing, I could almost asure you were in tears while writing those lines … (just as I was while reading them). Your sensibility is what makes this experience of yours, more valuable … you sure give it its real and true value … But, hold it, JD …! each new place you visit, with its different needs, is going to bring out of you, a sense of not having done enough … But you have … you are doing great … you’re doing what many of us would’ve loved to do but, maybe didn’t find the courage or the guts to go out and do it, beating all odds. And there’s still much more to come … and you’ll do it … with the same exitement and love you’ve been doing it since your trip began … since your quest began … and even before.
I don’t know why but, when I think of you, I remember a crazy man from La Mancha … but, with a slight difference … there’s no impossible dream … you are proving everybody wrong … your dream is coming true right before our very eyes … and I feel honored and so very happy to learn about every step you make while you achieve it.
I’m not a religious fanatic but, I’m sure there’s a Divine Power (I call God), guiding and protecting you, Jackson and Buck, through the way.
I just so look forward to read you soon.

Mary Jewell Gutowski

Hello JD, my friend…funny how we fancy ourselves…that is until we really see. Reminds my of something I read years ago by a man who wrote it in the 1800’s..” Lord, make me blind so I can see. Make me deaf, so I can really hear” _John Wright Folette_. That statement made a huge impact on me and still does. Jackson and Buck are experiencing realities at such a young age that will last for a lifetime! It really is about the people… isn’t it? As hard as it was for you to say good bye…I can’t imagine how much harder it was for those people at New Hope and how grateful they are to have had you there. Three extremely bright rays of sunshine! Great to hear Lego’s have been so generous to these children…makes me even a bigger fan. Keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers. I’ll end this note with yet another quote…(((hugs)))

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
– Dr. Seuss

I am so excited you are having an amazing experience! What an incredible story teller you are! I sit on the edge of my sit in anticipation for the next adventure! I am so proud of all three of you for imbarking on this amazing journey of service! May you all be blessed!

HOLY TEARS!! I LOVE THAT VIDEO! The before and after comparisons are incredible. I am also so excited about the LEGO’s and Buck for thinking of that! What a wonderful thing to leave and they will be able to remember your family thru that gift as well. I love reading your posts not only for the stories but it puts my world in perspective.
Lots of Hugs and Kisses!! Also, I will be emailing you a long letter very soon…Ana and I will soon have lots to report on : )

Oh John what a life changing experience for you and my precious Nephews. I am like Laurie , I just cry when I read about these children. Love is the most important thing you can give. I am so proud of you . You know I have always heard you cannot change the world by yourself , but you are changing one life at a time and that’s where we have to start.. The boys look great . I miss you guys. Wish I just could pick up the phone and talk to you… praying always for your safety. Love you.

JD…You may have thought you had lots of us fooled about how tuff you were with your growing up strong story, but you could never conceal the heart of gold you have! It shines through so strongly, and moreso now as evidenced by your journey so far. The bittersweet aspect of twelve in twelve is that you will touch so many lives who will be made so much better by your having been a part of theirs – if only briefly – and in turn they will make you all three so much better in return. That is the sweet part, the bitter part is as you know the goodbye. I wonder where the “good” part of it comes from since it hurts so much – I guess the memories you take which become part of you forever is the good! Always, you and boys are heroes to so many, me most of all! Rock on in China, safe journey, and if you do find Shanghai Lil, tell her hello! XOXOXOBO

Buckford…way to LEGO!!! Knew that you would make the ultimate Lego Ambassador. Scooter and Princess both want you to send them some pictures of your dad…so far, they have seen you and Jackson, but they are not so sure he is with you!!! LOL. Bruiser and Buster cannot wait for you to get back home so you can bring Woodie and Jesse to play and stay! they send licks and love, and know that you are going to have the best school year on your trip. Ainsley and Thomas both send you love too, and cannot wait for ticklefest now that she is out of her cast!
Hugs and love from Ed and me….XOXOXOBO

I am in tears.. I love what you and the boys are doing. You constantly inspire me, all of you,
to the Lewis’..
I love you all sooo much

You and the boys are truly living the best of all possible lives. I think of you every morning before putting a foot on the floor, sending positive thoughts for a continuing safe and heartfelt journey. I haven’t read anything about filming. I hope that’s going well as you will be able to inspire untold others to follow your example. Keep those beautifully written stories coming. xxoo Susan

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