November 6, 2005
In the past STG has featured Susan Tom, a remarkable woman who over the past decade or so has made it her mission to adopt and care for 11 special needs children. Some have had physical disabilities, some have had learning disabilities, some have had terrible illnesses. Three have died from their afflictions.
I first heard of Susan May 11th, 2004. As I wrote on at Command Post then:
Tonight, I finished watching the HBO documentary My Flesh And Blood, which tells the story of Susan Tom, a 53-year-old single mother in Fairfield, California. Susan is the mother of 13 children, 11 of whom she has adopted, many of whom suffer from handicaps and diseases.
Teenagers Hannah and Xenia were born without legs. Anthony has a degenerative and usually fatal skin disease. Eight-year-old Faith has disfiguring scars and no hair from being badly burned as an infant. Joe, 15, recently passed away from cystic fibrosis. Margaret, 18, helps Susan raise the family. (You can learn more about her story here, here, here and here, you can read about the documentary here and here.)
Hers is a powerful and wonderfully inspiring story. It left me moved by the grace, love, and caring Susan Tom exhibits to these children … her children … children whom, without her, may very well have gone throughout life without love, without tenderness, without a chance … without having really lived at all.
I turn from that documentary to The Command Post, where I see posted the photographs of Nick Berg’s beheading, and I’m struck bluntly by the complete antithesis of Susan Tom: murder, brutality, and disgusting inhumanity. In moments, I went from having tears in my eyes to having bile in my throat. And I’m left wondering, as I’m sure are most of us are, what exactly to make of it all.
Well, I’ve decided what to make of it all, and what I’m going to make is some good. Susan Tom is a hero … one of millions … waking each day with a commitment to make the lives of others better through love.
Hers is an example to which humanity should aspire. So my response to the murder of Nick Berg and the inhumanity it represents is to use it
as motivation to give to Susan Tom and the humanity she represents.
All of Susan Tom’s children save Katie plan to attend college. Susan will have education bills to pay, and toward that end she’s established the non-profit Tom Family Education Trust to assist the Tom children with college tuition and book expenses (according to the stipulation of the trust, the monies can not be used for any other purpose).
For the next three days, between the time stamp of this post and Midnight EDT Friday night, Michele and I will contribute all donations made to The Command Post PayPal account (the button’s below this post and also over in the right-hand column) to the Tom Family Education Trust.
That post did three things. First, it rallied the blogosphere, and we ultimately raised $15,000 in three days for the education trust. Second, it was the germ of an idea that ultimately led me to create Strengthen The Good, a non-profit network of bloggers committed to raising awareness for small charities around the world. Third, it introduced me to Susan, whom I’ve since come to consider a friend, and her kids, who are as much an inspiration as is she.
Well, Susan finally got what she deserved. ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition built her a house. The episode airs tomorrow night at 7:00 EST (it’s a two-hour special), and I strongly encourage everyone to watch the show. It’s a program that often brings people (including me) to tears; Susan’s story will inspire you to change the world, in whatever small or grand way you can. It did for me, and I’m a better man for it.
Thank you, Susan, for being a hero, and congratulations on getting what you’ve so long deserved.