Written by guest contributor Courtney DeFeo
Who was your favorite teacher? And why? My favorite teacher was Miss Cantrell in Lilburn, Georgia. She was my second grade teacher. There are a few teachers in life that leave a lifetime imprint on your heart. She was one of them.
I have thought about her impact over time and wondered why she was so special. I believe it was the combination of all the little things. All of those little things told me that I was genuinely loved by her. She noticed me as an individual and was truly excited to see me every day. I could feel that in her huge hugs and her bright smile as I entered the door. I remember her eye contact. I remember her joy. Imagine my surprise, 30 years later, when I heard my childhood/maiden name, “Courtney McClure!” screamed across Target. I turned to see that it was Miss Cantrell! She gave me that huge hug and beaming smile. I couldn’t believe that she remembered me. It was like time hadn’t passed. And there it was again—a little moment with great impact.
I believe the same is true for our Lighthouse families that we get to serve—the little things make great impact. These families have been fighting childhood cancer and are in need of great support and love. They certainly need love during our retreat time at the beach, but they also need support in the everyday moments of life over time. They need to know we are going to care for them for the long haul. I’ve noticed how the little things matter to these families. Truthfully, our family has not done this perfectly. However, the times we have done something little, we have seen tremendous impact.
I remember the time we got to show up at a volleyball game for one of the eight Reiling kiddos. And then we grabbed dinner. It was like two families had reunited. I remember watching my kids and how excited they were to go be with their friends. I also remember the time we were in Georgia for Christmas, and we had a chance to go by the Gallegos’ home. We played games, giggled, reconnected, and got to see their home. I remember Ariana beaming with pride to show us her home, her family, and her hair that had grown so much since we saw her last. The little things had great impact on all of us.
I have never wanted our Retreat Families to feel like they were a project to us. Or an assignment that we were obligated to love during just one week. I wanted them to know that we were loyal friends that would be there for the long haul. Our family was never interested in a short-term, causal hangout. We wanted to be in long-term relationship with them for many years. And the best part of it all is that these families have loved us the same way. They have taught our family so much, and we are better because of our time with them.
IDEA STARTERS! Here are a few simple ways to serve your Retreat Families on the other side of a Lighthouse trip.
Connect on social media (Facebook or Instagram) so that you can follow what’s going on in their lives
Simply comment and encourage the family as they post online
Schedule a FaceTime to check up with the family
Send card or text on birthdays
Connect in-person through a meal or fun activity
Send old photos from Lighthouse and tell them why you loved being with their family
Show up and cheer on the children in their activities
Connect in writing—send Christmas cards, birthday cards, or random notes of encouragement
Track and celebrate those cancer milestones—from scans to anniversaries
Offer your home if they travel through your area
Reach out to parents and simply ask how you can pray for their family
Although your time and capacity may be limited with the busyness of life, you can rest assured that the little things make great impact. The way you check in and stay in touch with these families will speak volumes about the way you love. God is always up to a much bigger story, and your obedience in the little things matters so much.
Courtney DeFeo is most known for being a factory of ideas for families and leaders. As a former marketing professional for Chick-fil-A, Courtney has a history of creating memorable programs and ideas that motivate others to action. She is the author of In This House, We Will Giggle and Treasured, and creator of ABC Scripture Cards and the kindness movement Light ‘Em Up Acts. Courtney is beginning her studies at Dallas Theological Seminary this spring to pursue a master's degree in Christian Leadership. Courtney’s most honorable mention is her husband Ron and their two wildly fun girls (Ella, 14 and Larson, 11). They reside in the DFW area, love serving with Lighthouse Family Retreat, and live to consume table-side guacamole. Connect with Courtney at CourtneyDeFeo.com.