It was just about a year ago when I was getting all kinds of excited because the book I’d been working on and sweating over and swearing at for the past year or two was finally at the printer and was turning into, well, turning into a real book. Not a figment of my imagination.
In a way, it seems like yesterday. I can still smell the paper and ink at the Walsworth printing plant in Marceline, Mo. (Of course, I can still smell the ink and paper of my dad’s newspaper office, too, and he’s been dead for decades. So maybe this says something about me and not the stench of ink and paper and the passage of time.)
So on the one hand, it was just yesterday, and yet on the other it seems long ago that my hopes and dreams of a history book for Children’s Mercy turned into a reality. We’ve sold thousands of copies (and still have plenty left!) I’ve signed dozens of books (and would gladly sign more). I’ve given dozens of talks (and would gladly give more.)
And you tell me it’s only been a year?
Sometimes, I admit, I get a little bored with “For All Children Everywhere.” Not in the this-is-a-boring-book sort of way. Maybe its more that I’m over that excitement of “Wow, look, I wrote a book!” I know it so well. The stories are etched in my mind. I have a beat-up copy at my desk that I refer to at least once a day. I double-check dates and spellings of names. I look for photos.
Yes, that’s right: I find it easier to look in the hard-copy book instead of those fancy-schmancy “digital asset management” (or DAM) tools. Once I know where to find something in the book, it’s easier for me to locate an electronic file if I need to email it or print it for another use. (Side note: I do firmly believe some things were better back in the good ol’ days of printed media, vinyl record albums, wired telephones and limited menus at McDonald’s.)
One of the special things about the book, of course, is that it’s designed to last a long time. It’s not going out of style or out of date anytime soon. Facts are facts and history is history (despite some people’s desire to offer “alternatives” to both.) But new people are being introduced to the story of Children’s Mercy for the first time nearly every day and that keeps the story and the book vital and alive.
I often get calls or emails from people wanting help with a piece of our history. For instance, someone from St. Louis recently got in touch with me because she is trying to restore a piece of stained glass that came from, supposedly, the house that served as the first official home of Children’s Mercy Hospital at 404 Highland Avenue from 1903 to 1917. I told her what I knew, including the name of the original owner and the names of other Kansas City history buffs who might help. She now knows more about Children’s Mercy and its commitment to children and community. Who knows where this conversation will eventually lead.
So it’s not that I’m bored with our story now that the book is nearing its first birthday. In fact, there is still a ton of work to do in the Archives: organizing our historical files, collecting oral histories as more and more of our Baby Boomer workforce retires and sorting boxes and boxes of photos that seems to appear out of nowhere. Who knows what kinds of artifacts and scrapbooks and other goodies are lurking behind closet doors or in attics around the city. A nurse told me she has a desk that was built by one of our founders and used in the hospital on Independence Avenue. The nurse uses it as a table in her living room. I’m almost afraid to start looking and asking for fear of what I’ll find and have nowhere to keep or display it.
Still, we need to continue to collect and preserve and make available the assets of this incredible story that has transformed children, families, Kansas City and the world.
OK, so what else to do? What’s next?
Well, even before “For All Children Everywhere” was off the presses last summer, we began to talk about that. Even before the ink was dry, I was getting a sense of “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately?” Not in a bad way, mind you. More in a, “boy-you-can’t-rest-on-your-laurels” sort of way. (I’m not the resting laurels type, anyway.)
So we talked. I went to the table with an open mind and ideas of stories that didn’t make it into the first book or stories that deserve a little more telling. Maybe stories that haven’t ended yet or stories that are just beginning.
And so, after lots of talking and reading and researching and then some more talking, we made a decision: there will be at least one more book.
This one will focus on a history and evolution of “psycho-social care,” that special care we practice here beyond traditional medicine, care that encompasses the whole child — body, mind and spirit. It embraces the whole family and if offers hope for healthy communities.
Another book? Yep. Another book!
Amid the fear and panic of the work I was committing to, I found myself energized with this new mission. While there is a history component to this new book, it’s much harder to find a beginning and an ending. There are lots of different angles to this story. And while that was true for the first book, too, I knew where it was headed: from the founding of Children’s Mercy to the present day.
This time, I’m not so sure.
But a wise person once said it’s the journey, not the destination that’s important. In that case, climb aboard and strap in. We’re embarking on a journey. If it’s anything like the last one, there will be twists and turns and laughter and tears.
And in the end … oh heck, I can’t see the future. Who knows? Maybe it will never end.