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Learning experiences are among life’s greatest gifts

Jonathan Miano / Staff Photographer

It wasn’t an unprecedented turn of events. Still, it gets the adrenaline going every time.

I came out of my yoga class Wednesday night to find a half-dozen missed calls and text messages from my spouse and our youngest, updating their status: in short, OTW to ER.

Complications had arisen in the aftermath of her parting ways with three wisdom teeth. (I didn’t even know kids sometimes come with just three. Two or four, yes. Hadn’t heard of three before).

At any rate, a trip to the emergency room with a child in distress is never free of stress. It could be anything, and the imagination always has a field day during that frantic sprint. So it came as a relief when what at first felt pretty scary spelled out in text characters wound up being simply a disagreeable pharmaceutical. Given that it’s an opioid, I’m pretty OK with my kid being allergic to it.

And I’m quite OK with the way she was handled in the Edward Hospital ER.

The Plainfield location being closer to home, we went there, checking in just before 10 p.m. A rehydrating IV and a warm blanket, a dose of anti-nausea manna, several all-clear lab tests and less than an hour later, we were on our way. A quick stop in the lobby to fill her tummy-settling prescription with help from a vending machine that calls itself InstyMed — what a world! — and it was home sweet home for us.

I’ll say it again: Edward needs to be allowed to put up a whole hospital in Plainfield, not just an outpatient center and ER. The good people of the village deserve one.

But overall, it’s been an educational week, no question about that.

For one thing, my job took me to the yearly A Day Without Hunger commemoration hosted by Loaves & Fishes Community Services, where so many great things were on display. The agency does phenomenal work as a safety net — the best one around, according to United Way of Metropolitan Chicago — for the many people who are struggling with factors mostly beyond their control, from corporate downsizing to foreclosure, health challenges to lack of preparedness for the jobs that do become available. So much more than the food pantry that has largely defined it for the past 30 years, the agency is looking to raise $6 million to keep the ball rolling on empowerment programs that give people access to the resources they need to get their feet back underneath them, with their dignity remaining intact.

Because this is Naperville, this campaign has been under way for months already, and it’s more than halfway to its goal. It’s certainly a worthy cause; please go to loaves-fishes.org if there’s loose change in your pocket.

Over the past week I also learned a little bit about family, and what it can be like to work together every day. My interviews with Eggs Inc. restaurateurs Gus Vassos and his dad Bill for a Father’s Day story illuminated more than the hard work I expected to find in the bustling eatery on Washington Street. There is sometimes a fondness that grows among coworking kin over the decades, something that transcends the inevitable artistic differences of the hospitality industry. Gus realizes he could have opted for a career separate from his father, as so many of us do, but he has no regrets.

“I’d rather work with him,” he said, “because those are memories I’ll have the rest of my life.”

Learning experiences. As I marked one more trip around the sun this week, I was reminded that finding out more about the world around us every day — whether it’s the wiseguy ways of wisdom teeth, Automat-style prescriptions, the quiet benevolence of a community known for its affluence, or blood bonds fortified by decades of hard work — is really the best gift of all.

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