Just like so many of you, my life has been flipped like the gooey side of a pancake these last few weeks because of COVID-19. I work in sports, both on TV and as the in-park host for the Cleveland Indians. Normally, this time of year, I would be buzzing around to different gigs, talking, laughing, hugging and high-fiving every soul in my path! It’s such a joy to entertain others and work with so many different types of people as a freelancer. From feature interviews and commercials to live sports entertainment and school presentations, I have the pleasure of working with many creative and endearing people. And I miss everyone terribly!!
For nearly the last two months, I have been at home with much less to do work-wise except teaching a John Carroll media class that moved online. Like so many of you reading, there are practically no more people around me physically, if at all! While I have always thought of myself as a naturally goofy, outgoing and joyful person, the excess alone time certainly has had an interesting impact. Sometimes it is hard to feel enthusiastic or happy. I struggle with feeling a lack of purpose and self-identity— and with plenty of time to ruminate, I occasionally fall into the rabbit hole of harshly criticizing myself for basically every perceived mistake I’ve ever made in my life, career, dating, etc.
My mind wanders as I think to myself, “You didn’t do this right, and you’ve wasted time and you haven’t made enough money or traveled anywhere cool or found a husband!”
It is creepy how easily I can torment myself with this irrationally ruthless logic!
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But recently, I was reminded that as uncomfortable as this pandemic is for me, it is physically, emotionally and spiritually much harder for many others, especially those in the hospital.
The activity that snaps me out of my own unfulfilling cycle of negative thinking is running. With the extra time, my dad and I have been regularly getting together to run. I so enjoy getting lost in the present moment, cherishing my time with dad. We chat as we go Kreuz-ing through the beautiful Metroparks where we admire God’s creation.
However, the other day dad told me he was tired and he decided to skip out on our planned long Sunday run. Papa Kreuz is never the one to back out of a run. After all, he was on an 18-day streak!
I was a little concerned, but went ahead and took a quick nap, thinking maybe dad would feel better later. When I woke up, my mom said after checking his blood pressure, he drove himself to the emergency room. He had some sort of episode with his heart. The doctors decided to keep him overnight to continue tests.
The discovery was quite alarming and triggered all sorts of childhood memories I had of his previous stays in the hospital. When I was in 7th grade, he had heart trouble while battling a brain tumor, which nearly killed him. Watching my dad fight for his life when I was a child was a scary and stomach-sinking experience but we were at least able to be together through his illness and miraculous recovery.
However, during this recent ambiguous heart episode, no one in my family could even visit my dad because of COVID-19. We were at the mercy of waiting for texts and FaceTime calls for updates.
In any circumstance, it is stressful to have someone you love struggling in the hospital. Even when you can be by that person’s side, you feel helpless. But now, during this pandemic, patients are often completely separated from their families.
Thankfully, my dad was well enough to be discharged the next day (they’re still not entirely sure what happened), but the situation made me think of all the families at the Ronald McDonald House (RMH). For those of you who don’t know, The Ronald McDonald House is similar to a cozy hotel for families with sick children who need extended care at local hospitals. Many of the kids who stay there are battling very serious and sometimes terminal illnesses.
During high school, I volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland through a program called Help 2 Others. We mostly did yard work, making me more of an observer of what went on there than someone actively interacting with the kids and their families.
Even though I don’t remember any specific families I met back then, I do remember that the experience deeply resonated with me. Ronald McDonald House cooked for the children and their families. They brought in entertainment such as singers and even famous guests. The kids, if well enough, would do activities and play outside. But right now, much of that is at a standstill. Children can’t even have both parents in the hospital with them. It’s one adult per child, to protect people from COVID-19.
These kids are not feeling well and may be facing surgery or dealing with chemo or other uncomfortable treatments or procedures. On top of it all, they now are limited in the support they can have directly around them. It’s awful.
However, I am writing to all of you because I genuinely believe there are ways we can keep the kids at RMH and their families emotionally uplifted.
Lauren Brill, a former Cleveland sportscaster and the founder of The Unsealed, and I would love to get 14 people together in addition to the two of us to each purchase a $25 gift card from Amazon. There are currently 22 families and 16 children at the house in Cleveland and with 14 volunteers outside of the two of us, each child at the house could pick out a gift. Also, Lauren is donating all the ad revenue for this letter to the Ronald McDonald House, so share, share and share this story on your social media. We want these families to know we are thinking of them and we care about them.
While life is a little challenging for you and me right now, it is most definitely difficult for these families who are alone, scared and with few distractions.
Let’s show these families that even though we are all isolated, no one is by themselves!
In the process, the smiles we bring to others will also be the joy we gift to ourselves during these wild quarantine times. ❤️