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I first met Vivian Westfall when she somehow convinced me that I wanted a duck with a pom-pom on its head. Truth be told, I'm not sure much convincing was involved. There she stood, on the front lawn of the community building the day of the County Fair, surrounded by beautiful blonde children behaving the way children do on lawns (some of these were not her own but were obviously part of the tribe), and she had a duck in a crate. She appeared completely calm.
I told her about my own male duck, who kept following us and trying to get into the house.
"Sounds like he needs a friend," she said. She listened intently to everything I said. She never lost her cool in the hubbub of children, animals and windblown cotton candy cones that happened by. I ended up with her duck, and she lent us fencing material and a wealth of sturdy advice.
Later on in a series of duck-related adventures, we suffered an injured duck and could not imagine what to do. Vivian was the one we called. She invited my husband and son to go over to their house, where her husband Mike showed them how to kill and butcher our ill-fated pet.
Vivian has messaged me information about homeschooling. She has known of doctors, resources, veterinarians and laws. When my son appeared to have gotten lost at the Children's Christmas Bazaar, she grabbed her daughters and organized a search. Vivian helps others automatically and generously. That is just the kind of person she is. She is a Republican. I am a Democrat. She is a Christian, and I am not. None of this matters. Not to her and not to me. She is not the kind of person who is selective about whom she wants good things for in this world.
Today, I am writing you because she needs help—or rather, needs it for her daughter. The Westfalls have three beautiful daughters, all with long, blonde hair and wide, searching eyes. The youngest of these is Lidija. Lidija has mast cell activation disorder. I am not going to try and explain that to you. What you need to understand is this: Lidija can't eat. No food at all. Any food that the Westfalls gave her made her ill. Her body simply could not process it the way ours can. Last year, Lidija ended up in the hospital and, for a time, Vivian was afraid of that unthinkable thing I will not name. It changed Vivian. Lidija is gold, lit with the fierce light of mortality, bathed in the love we give those things we know we might have lost.
Feeding kids is what we do. We do it on holidays. We bake them cakes. We roast turkeys. We carry our stories on our plates. To realize a child cannot eat is unthinkable. Thankfully for Lidija, a lifeline was ultimately found: elemental formula. This formula, which contains no whole proteins, is something Lidija can eat. On the formula, she thrived. Finally, there was a solution.
Except that insurance does not cover the outrageous cost of this essential food.
Until, recently, the Westfalls managed. Then, questions arose over whether some whole protein may have gotten into a new-label version of the formula. Kids were getting sick. Lidija ended up in the hospital last week and damage to her kidneys was discovered. Not willing to give Lidija the new-label formula, the Westfalls and other families are now paying for the old. They buy it on the internet, where prices get higher the more desperate parents get. Right now, Vivian estimates that it costs $35 a day to feed Lidija.
That is $1,050 a month. For one child. In a family of five.
There is so much in this world about which I cannot imagine what to do. School-children are executed, and I am told to hug my children. I do, because I don't know what else there is to do. I am overwhelmed by Congress, frightened of rising oceans. I am inundated with news I cannot absorb, things I don't know how to fix.
This, I can do something about. There is a fund-raising website for Lidija. Please give something, if you can. I know there are lots of places to give. Please give something here anyway, even if it is $5, if you have $5 to give. Please share the link to her website and tell friends why they should think about giving here. Help us keep this conversation alive.
Right now, I need us to be able to feed all our children in this world. The internet is powerful. Love can do powerful things. We all need someone we can feed.
Happy Solstice. Merry Christmas. And thank you to the world for all its finite, glorious, spiraling prayers of light.