My dad is an expert paper air plane maker. It’s a hidden talent, one of those things that comes out around the grandkids now. He crafts each plane with such precision; measuring and folding, he shapes each one just right so it glides effortlessly. It’s something special he learned in his childhood that he can now share with his grandchildren.
One time when he was a child, he was on vacation with his parents standing on a balcony overlooking the pacific ocean. He had crafted a beautiful plane and released it out towards the water and the horizon of the setting sun. He stood in anticipation at where his plane might go. To his surprise, it seemed to catch just the right gust of ocean breeze under its wing and it soared out over the ocean, farther and farther.
He remembers watching it until he couldn’t see it anymore. It just kept going.
It was a magical moment for my Dad. As a young boy he felt the satisfaction of his mastered skill and hard work; he recognized the optimal atmospheric conditions of the right wind current; he understood that his perfect release of speed and projection allowed the plane to just keep going, elevating to new heights and soaring out into the gilded horizon.
He still smiles when he thinks about it.
He still wonders where it landed.
My son Caleb is especially fascinated by Grandpa’s skill. Last summer when we went to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Chicago, my Dad and my sons spent many hours perfecting the paper airplane together.
When we got home, I found Caleb alone in his bedroom one day, frantically folding computer paper, a pile of ripped, rolled up, tossed out paper beside him, clearly evidence of previous failed attempts and growing frustration.
His focused hand movements had a slight agitation to them. Grandpa seemed to be able to whip out defectless planes in minutes. Caleb was struggling to get it right.
I sat down next to my son and said, “Caleb, I like how hard you are working at making these planes.”
He didn’t even look up at me as his hands continued to manipulate the square paper.
“Caleb, you know Grandpa has been making paper airplanes his whole life. You have to practice to do it like him.”
Suddenly, he smashed the airplane he was making and threw it across the room.
“I just want it to fly like Grandpa’s!”
A few months later when we saw Grandpa again, Caleb showed him his airplane making skills he’d been working on.
Grandpa sat next to him. With patience, love and instruction he guided his hands and navigated his folds; he showed him how to wet the very tip so he could form it to a perfect point.
“The very front is perhaps the most important,” he explained as he closed one eye and observed it head on to see if each side was symmetical.
“If it can cut through the air, it can go farther.”
Caleb watched in fascination.
By the end of that trip, Caleb and my Dad stood at the top of their balcony in their home. With grace and confidence, he tossed the plane into the air. They both stood, side by side, and watch it soar, higher and higher, farther and farther.
Caleb grinned with satisfaction. He knew that Grandpa’s guidance and encouragement enabled him to build his best plane yet.
And he would only get better with each visit as Grandpa would continue to instruct him.
At home, the paper wads in his bedroom diminished, and he began to create airplanes.
For the past few months, With Love has been crafting their 3rd annual benefit dinner at the Portland Golf club on May 11.
The invitation this year shows a child tossing a paper airplane into the air. When I first saw this, I thought of the innocent and carefree days of a child. The paper airplane represents the theme this year, Elevate.
I thought of my own son Caleb, and his desire to craft the perfect plane; I thought of all the children in foster care and wondered and dreamed if they too were able to have carefree days and dreams of their own.
What if every child could aim at a beautiful horizon?
With Love’s mission is to elevate the experience of children and families involved in the foster care community. In my mind, the word “elevate” creates an image of movement and momententum; it’s a gradual accension with a full, grand view.
Elevation happens under the right gale of encouragement, support and love; to soar higher is to elevate the calling of ordinary foster parents to one that is extradonary.
Left alone, foster parents can grow weary; there are days when their good intentioned hearts begin to drift downward.
What if we could elevate the work of a foster parent to one that is recognized as heroic?
What if the lives of children in foster care could soar, could find their perfect current that would allow them to glide into the unknown horizon, confident in their worth?
What if we could be that person, the person who sits beside, encouraging and supporting?
Like Caleb and Grandpa, everyone needs someone in their life to stand by them when they are taking on hard things.
This year’s benefit dinner promises an evening of good food and drink while honoring the stories and lives of those in the foster care community. I am excited to be in the audience, applauding and endorsing the good work of everyone involved.
Together, we can elevate the foster care experience so that families and children not only successfully take off, but can rise and soar to new heights and horizons they only dreamed about.