Whenever together with different friends from distinct parts of my life, I have the expectation that they will instantly start an engaging conversation based on their little-known mutual interests, followed by a lifelong inseparable friendship. I once introduced two friends with an eight-paragraph email that could have been summarized, “Let's meet there for tea in Lake Forest whenever your children’s schedules allow.” Instead, I pitched both of them to each other like I was a matchmaker trying to get them to commit to an arranged marriage.
Last night, I was blessed to have several dear friends, both from inside the Cherry Preschool alumni community and outside it, attend their annual fundraiser with me. Given that this was my first social venture out of the house, I eschewed any attempts at conversational lubrication. Nevertheless, they survived beautifully.
Friendship is an incredibly powerful thing. Seeing my friends last night was a jolting reminder of how smart, mighty, kind, generous, and thoughtful they are. They are physical evidence of what you can get through if you keep on swinging. I am so fortunate to have them in my life. I love them so much.
The Cherry Preschool annual fundraiser was stunning. It is impossible to do justice when honoring Rhonda. Rhonda built an inclusion program that helped thousands of families with special needs learn what’s possible. She transformed 98% of the school’s student body who didn’t have special needs into inclusion advocates. The typical kids at Cherry grew up to spend their lives accepting that people are different and that is normal; in fact, that is what makes our world great.
The Cherry Preschool team politely saved my friends a table at the front so we could see Rhonda and her family. I wanted to spend the entire program hugging her and thanking her, but, as everyone else felt the same way, I restrained myself.
Cherry’s staff graciously started the evening’s video with a dedication to the memory of Constance. In the included photo, she had climbed onto the dining room table because she had thought a perfectly round pumpkin was a ball and, after discovering its weight, she had laughed riotously. The video featured kids like Constance talking about their lives years after leaving Cherry. A boy explained how his early experiences at Cherry Preschool’s inclusion program brought him to his current studies at Northwestern. I cried until I filled Lake Michigan. My bones felt crushed by a speeding road roller. Like a Victorian novel, I went home and took to my bed.