December 18, 2009

Reflection / Karen (Popp) Schueler

Christmas magic is evident as family shares gift of love with residents of Ronald McDonald House, Indianapolis

“Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you” (Lk 6:38).

For Bob and Betty Popp, their six grown children and spouses, it comes very naturally to invite family and friends, fix a meal and enjoy the fellowship of one another.

The Popps, who are members of St. Joseph Parish in Clark County, traditionally have an adult Christmas party which rotates from house to house every year.

When it came time for their son, Mike Popp, to host the gathering, he suggested that the family share their love of fun, fellowship and food with others. He suggested that the Popp family meet at the Ronald McDonald House in Indianapolis on a Sunday in December and prepare a home-cooked meal for the residents.

He wanted all parts of the family meal to be cooked on site. The menu was planned to be a traditional meal of chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, sour dough bread, an array of desserts and all the fixings. As with many large families, when you have 14 adults, one kitchen and a meal to fix, all the ingredients are there for magic to begin!

In six short hours, the Christmas magic truly happens. Mom Betty proudly guides her daughters and daughters-in-law through the time-tested family traditions, routines and “secret ingredients” of making a “Popp” quality family meal.

The sons and sons-in-law are quick to run the errands, place tables and stand “at the ready” for whatever orders come from the kitchen. Christmas magic happens in those few hours: the magic of family, the magic of fellowship and the magic of Betty’s fantastic food!

Soon the buffet line is opened, and the real magic begins. The Popp family is upbeat, and there is always a lot of teasing going on, which helps to keep the atmosphere light. As the residents come through the line, the Popps serve the food and ask if there is anything they can do in those few minutes to help lighten their load.

“Can we get an extra plate, play with a young child to give mom a break, get an extra drink or make a plate for someone still at the hospital?”

On special occasions, we can send an extra loaf of Cheryl’s famous homemade sour dough bread home with a resident.

This year, after Gary Popp played with a boy who is a resident, Karen gave him her Santa hat. The boy was thrilled and ran off thinking that he was Santa Claus.

It is certainly not difficult to understand why the Popp family chose the Ronald McDonald House to donate their time and talent. Twenty-two years ago, Mike and Joann Popp were faced with the reality of their 4-month-old daughter, Alexandra (Alex), fighting a life-threatening disease.

Mike was called away from his Air Force assignment in Korea to meet the family in Washington, D.C., where Alex was admitted to the hospital. While she was there, she was diagnosed with Werdnig-Hoffman disease. The Ronald McDonald House staff housed the family and took care of them while they cared for their daughter.

Little Alex was called home to our Father in heaven on Thanksgiving Day. Ironically, the Popp family was gathered for a meal in southern Indiana at the home of Bob and Betty Popp when the call came that their granddaughter had died.

Mike Popp has been an avid volunteer for the Ronald McDonald House for more than 10 years.

The Popps give an afternoon of their time for the residents of the Ronald McDonald House in Indianapolis, but the gifts they receive are so much greater. They receive the gifts of fellowship, family, fun and the image of God in the faces of those they serve there.

“Give and gifts will be given to you.”

(Karen (Popp) Schueler is a member of Holy Family Parish in New Albany. She serves as the Learning Support Coordinator at Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville.)

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