Good News

Glad Tidings of Great Joy

Sometimes folk debate what love and kindness “looks like”.  Here is an example of what love looks like in the spheres of community and family.  There have been at least a couple of reports [TheBlaze and TodayNews] about this incident and its backstory, and we have drawn upon both.

‘All I could do was hug him’ 

Grad, 18, reunites with firefighter who saved her as a baby

Last Sunday was a landmark occasion for 18-year-old Skyler James, and not just because she celebrated graduating from high school.  For the first time, she also got to meet the firefighter who, on a bitterly cold November morning in 1995, found her — a newborn baby — abandoned beneath a snow-laden pine tree in an Illinois cemetery.  “It’s so amazing to be able to know the person who saved my life,” Skyler told “Without him I probably wouldn’t be here right now.”

Bonnie and Greg James of Charleston, Ill., adopted Skyler five days after firefighter Charlie Heflin discovered her under that tree. The couple told Skyler the story of how she joined their family as soon as she was old enough to understand. When Skyler was 5, Bonnie James began searching for Heflin in the phone books of nearby communities, but without any luck. . . . [TodayNews]

 After authorities got the anonymous 911 call, police and firefighters fanned out quickly to try locating an infant abandoned under a pine tree in a graveyard.  They looked and looked around Mt. Hope Cemetery in Champaign, Illinois on that chilly morning and couldn’t find the baby.

Image source: WFIE-TV

Image source: WFIE-TV

But on a whim, Charlie Heflin — listening to the developing drama over his scanner — figured he’d help out by taking a different approach.  He simply went to a different cemetery.  But again, no luck. After not locating the infant, either, Heflin started to walk back to his truck…when he got the sense he should try again. [TheBlaze] . . . .

“As I approached the tree again, I heard a whimper — a little baby whimper,” Heflin said. “My heart sank. I dug through the limbs. There she was, wrapped in a little blanket. I picked her up. She was covered in bloody mucus. She had pine needles all over her face and in her mouth. Her umbilical cord was cut off about two or three inches from her body, tied with a shoestring.”  Heflin cleared out her mouth, wiped off the needles and tucked her close to his body inside his coat, running to his truck to get her warm. He drove with one hand and cradled the baby with the other, radioing for an ambulance to meet him halfway to Urbana’s Carle Foundation Hospital.

When he handed the baby off to the medic, he assumed he would never see her again. Laws protecting patient privacy meant that even though he knew all the hospital workers, he couldn’t get information about what happened to anyone he assisted.  “It was hard to let her go,” he said. “I wanted to know what happened with her. I wanted to go with them, but I was so elated that, at least when she left my hands, she was still alive. I was just praying she would make it.” [TodayNews] . . .

That was 18 years ago.  And the after-story?

Well, Skyler James — who said her birth mother abandoned her all those years ago — was adopted by Bonnie and Greg James five days after Heflin rescued her.

Image source: WFIE-TV

Image source: WFIE-TV

Knowing Skyler’s story, Bonnie James started looking for Heflin when Skylar turned five.  “We had his name from the newspaper,” she told WFIE-TV. “Social media wasn’t what it is today back then.”  Years passed with no finding Heflin.

Then three weeks before Skyler’s high school graduation this spring, Bonnie James found a profile on Facebook she hoped was Heflin.  So she dialed the phone number for the fire station in Patoka, Illinois, and on the other end Heflin heard these words:  “The call was, ‘Are you Charlie Heflin? Do you remember rescuing a baby back in 1995?”’ he recalled. “There were quite a few tears.”

With that, Bonnie James cooked up a major surprise for Sylar: Heflin would come to Skylar’s graduation ceremony at Charleston (Illinois) High School as well as the party after — and she would have no idea who the guest of honor was. 

“I was talking to someone at my party and my parents came up and said, ‘We need you for a second,’” Skyler told WFIE.

Image source: WFIE-TV

Image source: WFIE-TV

“They took me over to Charlie and he introduced himself to me and told me the whole story again. I was totally shocked. It’s something that I’ve dreamed of since I was a little kid, and it’s amazing.”

Image source: WFIE-TV

Image source: WFIE-TV

Heflin gave Skyler frames containing newspaper clippings of how they first met, and pictures from Skyler’s graduation. [The Blaze] . . . .

Heflin gave Skyler the jacket he wore that snowy morning 18 years ago. He also handed her a framed collage of her graduation pictures, and another framed collection of articles about her rescue, the citation he received for it, and a fireman’s prayer.  Heflin learned from party guests of the impressive young woman Skyler had become — an honor student involved in school theater, choir and her church. She will attend Concordia University in Chicago and hopes to be a minister one day.

Skyler said she and Heflin have been corresponding on Facebook since Sunday and she hopes to keep him in her life.  “My parents always brought me up knowing my story,” Skyler said. “I always dreamed of meeting him or my birth mother, or someone who could tell me more of my story.”  [TodayNews] . . . .

And then here is a chaser:

About 16 months after the James family adopted Skyler, another baby was abandoned – this time in Bloomington, Ill. A baby boy was brought into a hospital by people who said they found him in their car. Today that boy is Skyler’s little brother, 17-year-old Nathan. [TodayNews]

Our Lord takes up the solitary and puts them in families.  And the means He uses are ordinary people doing extraordinary-ordinary things.  These are the signs of God’s presence amongst us–when ordinary people, such as these, extend Christian love and kindness to the most vulnerable. 

In the times of the Roman Empire, the Christians used to search the rubbish dumps looking for foundling babies that had been abandoned to die by their parents.  They took them into their homes and families and raised them as their own.  In India, one of its oldest Christian orphanages, Mukti regularly receives abandoned babies (often disabled) picked up by the public or authorities and brought in.  They love them, provide for them, raise them, educate them and help them find their callings as adults. 

God at work, through His people. 

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