“All people are pretty or handsome. Except if you are a zombie, then not so much” – Hailey Fort
According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, on any given night there are about 20,000 homeless people on the streets of Washington State.
It was an exceptionally bright, hot summer day in the Pacific Northwest when Hailey Fort navigated her mother through the streets of Silverdale, WA. “Let’s go that way, mom. I saw Ned at the mall last week,” she directed.
They parked and got out, Hailey steadying herself under the weight of a cardboard box filling her arms. Squinting against the glare, they made their way to a group of a few of Silverdale’s homeless population milling about a corner of the parking lot. Ned, a Vietnam War veteran, missing his right leg from the knee down. Undaunted by the sight of a wheelchair, Hailey greeted him by name.
Hailey introduced herself and her mother to the others. “I have a garden, so I brought you some tomatoes, carrots, and water,” she explained simply, unpacking the box.
“I saw that there were a lot of homeless people on the side of the road and I wanted to help them,” Hailey explained. “It was kinda scary at first and I am a little shy, but when I get to see them again and again they become my friends.”
A Seed of Change
Hailey’s mother, Miranda Fort, has been amazed by her daughter’s efforts, “Gardening is hard work for an adult; I was sure that at six years old the work would be too much and she would give up. But she did it. Hours were spent picking buckets of rocks from the soil and carrying them to the woods behind the house. Once the soil was ready, she did all the planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting. Each week, Hailey would harvest the food, clean it, and pack it up. At the end of the summer she had made over a dozen deliveries of tomatoes, carrots, peppers, spinach, onions, cucumbers, peas, and beans.”
Hailey comes by her compassion honestly. Miranda is VP of Community Outreach for the Military Special Needs Network. Quentin, Miranda’s husband, has dedicated his life’s work to serving the country in the Navy. Together they have three children, Hailey, 7; Josie, 5; and Teague, 3. All three have a swallowing disorder, Josie has Chiari, and Teague has Autism Spectrum Disorder. “I get to help teach Teague new things that a big sister should,” Hailey said. “Josie is always following me and watching what I am doing. It bugs me, but Mom says it is because she looks up to me. [When I grow up] I want to be a doctor. I want to help people like the doctors that help my sister.”
Feeding the homeless is not the only activity that the family undertakes to show caring and kindness to others. Hailey is also in Girl Scouts, and both girls have donated their hair to Locks of Love. “My kids are no strangers to hospitals,” Miranda said. “Josie started getting sick right after her first birthday. We were in and out of the Children’s Hospital, and we would frequently see young children with no hair. Hailey asked where their hair had gone and learned about chemotherapy. She asked if she could give them her hair. She has donated her hair twice to Locks of Love, and Josie has also donated her hair. When we learned that Josie would need brain surgery and part of her head would be shaved, we took Josie to get a pixie cut to minimize how obvious the bald spot would be. After Josie’s hair was cut, she became pretty upset. It had been that short before, but that was when her hair went to good use; this just went in the trash. To make Josie feel better, Hailey chopped off all her hair, too. They are now growing their hair out to donate it again.”
There is no question that this is an exceptional family, but how did the children come to be this way? “We have this wonderful book called ‘Have You Filled a Bucket Today?’ which talks about how everyone carries around an invisible bucket for their good feelings,” Miranda explained. “You can fill your bucket with good feelings by helping others. I wanted my kids to experience that. I think it is a great concept for little kids to learn that their actions affect the people around them, for good or for bad.”
Hailey Fort knows one person can make a difference in the world, because she is. “It’s like when you drop a rock in the water. At first the wave is little, but it gets bigger and bigger as it spreads. If someone sees me changing the world, maybe they will help. Then someone will see them and help, too. It will be contagious.”
by Emma Lamson Edirisinghe
It is a worthy cause to preserve the unique and beautiful character in our daughters and help them stay true to who they are.