The President And A Girl Named Jasmina

Posted in General by TBartine on December 4, 2009 No Comments yet

There haven’t been any new posts on the RLF lately…and I can tell you exactly why:

Healthcare: We’ve written about it ad nauseum.  The case for reform has been made.  The Democrats continue to squabble and compromise what little reform is in the bill…the Republicans continue to make the same fact-free, scare tactic, bogus criticisms.  Not one more word from us is required until the bill passes…or doesn’t.

The Economy: It’s just too depressing…things improve but at a pace that is too slow to warrant any excitement…or any posts.

Afghanistan: The war that can’t be won…rages on.  Lots of theories…few facts…little to hold onto in terms of practical “solutions.”  Send more troops…don’t send more troops…it’s the very definition of lose-lose.

Tiger Woods: Why are people even talking about this…seriously.

So, I thought it best, especially in these times and with the holiday rapidly approaching, to focus on something that made me smile…and yes, brought more than one tear to my eyes.  I’m not overly sentimental…and I care little for your standard presidential photo-op.  I’m also not one for “positive news fluff pieces.”  But THIS story…well, I can’t put my finger on it, but it certainly seems different.  Somehow it seems “important.

Meet Jasmina.

(Pic Courtesy of NY Daily News)

Jasmina is a 6-year-old from Manhattan…and she has leukemia.  After six difficult months of fighting the cancer, they believed that it had gone into remission.  As if her young life weren’t hard enough, as if it weren’t filled with enough fear, uncertainty, and disappointment…it came back.

The city was moved by Jasmina’s story, and nearly a thousand people showed up to be tested to see if they might be candidates for donating bone marrow.  A donor was found and Jasmina underwent the arduous bone marrow transplant treatment…only to have complications as her little body rejected the donor material in a case of “graft-versus-host disease.”

Enter the wonderful Make-A-Wish Foundation.  By now you’ve certainly heard how this group brings smiles to the faces of children facing the most horrific medical conditions…by allowing at least one of their wishes, sometimes their last one, to come true.

Jasmina had one such wish: to meet the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Make-A-Wish said: We can do that.

As Thanksgiving drew near, little Jasmina and her mother were understandably excited, and this sweet little girl admitted she could barely sleep:

Then…more disappointment.  At the very last minute, the trip had to be canceled.  Due to her medications, Jasmina started having seizures as a result of Posterior Reversible Encephalopathy Syndrome, a rare neurological condition.  She was devastated, thinking she’d lost her opportunity to meet the President.  President Obama even took the time to call  the hospital to see how she was doing…but she was asleep at the time (having just come off a ventilator) and could not be awakened. Upon learning that she had now also lost an opportunity to speak to the President on the phone, her spirits sank even further.  But there was still hope: the President had said a meeting might still be possible.

Then, finally, it happened.

(Pic Courtesy of NY Daily News)

Jasmina arrived at the White House, where aides provided a reception worthy of the biggest celebrity or the most important diplomat.  She was led to the Oval Office, wearing her “special pink dress.” Our President was there, smiling, waiting  for his special, young guest.  They were instantly both at ease and spoke of Christmas wishes (she wants a violin), her favorite books, interests she shares with his daughters, and the President complimented the little girl on how very articulate she was.  What’s more, he extended an offer: “You can write me anytime. I’ll get it.“  Jasmina’s mom would later describe the interaction, saying: “It was like they were really best buddies.  It was just how he spoke to her, like a daddy. It was so sweet. He was really relating to her.

The President presented Jasmina with a box of M & M’s bearing his name and the presidential seal, as well as a “presidential yo-yo,” before they took a tour of the East Wing, where the young girl marveled at the multitude of Christmas decorations.  Their ten minutes expired, President Obama said, “Come here. Give me a hug,” prompting a smile on Jasmina’s face that would last the rest of the day.  According to her mother, Jasmina’s not even ready to talk about the experience yet…her daughter just smiles and beams, and says little.

I know.  There are bigger problems in the world than one little sick girl.  That’s NOT why this story is important.  It’s important, because from my perspective, with all that is going on in the world…I need to know that the person in charge is fully in touch with his humanity, and the humanity of the people he serves.  And it must be genuine, not mere political showmanship…not like the man who showed up well after a hurricane ravaged one of our cities bringing terror and tragedy to so many, and who could only stand on a levy and spout platitudes, empty promises, and shallow condolences.

No.  This day, and in this story…our President gave me, and all of us,  a gift.  A nice reminder that inside the politician is still a man…a father…a human being who understands that a sick little girl’s wish to meet him is very important.