It’s only 5.1 miles from the hospital to this place, but with traffic it takes almost an hour to get here some days. The stress of D.C. traffic doesn’t ever get easier and we can leave the hospital in great spirits, yet feel fully the opposite by the time we pull up to the gate.

With less than a mile to go, nerves frazzled from the previous four, and knowing we still have to dodge more rude drivers, oblivious cyclists, construction, delivery trucks and buses, I’ll grumble that idiots must have decided to put a house of respite on the other side of such a gauntlet. Where exhausted and depleted parents must navigate around treacherous obstacles just to lay their heads down when the hospital finally frees them from its grasp.

And then it’s the next afternoon and we are eating lunch on a big beautiful deck, feeling the warmth of the sun on our faces. Grey squirrels climb the beautiful trees surrounding the property and a gentle breeze blows wonderful scents from the garden path that winds around nearby.

I’ll sigh, take it all in and remember the days of days of recycled hospital air, medical scents, crying children, beeping monitors and the footsteps of dozens of strangers walking by our tiny room-already fading away like a vapor- and I’ll think “Does it get any better than this?”

In response, the bells at the monastery next door will chime in muted yet joyful rhythm and the birds sing along and I smile and think, “Okay God, you’ve made your point. I appreciate it all now. I get it”- and I kid you not- a fox trots across the property line and stops and looks at us a few seconds and then ducks under the fence line and what can you do but laugh?

Life is ugly and beautiful. Sometimes in the same 24 hours. Sometimes hourly. I don’t understand why we have so many ugly parts in ours compared to others but I’m so incredibly thankful for the beautiful ones.

And I’m so thankful for this place, just 5 miles from the sometimes ugly…I suppose it wasn’t an idiot who planned this location after all. — at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, D.C.

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