Some things, government can do. But there are other things that can only be done effectively in the private sector
By Jack Cashill
Peter Northcott, 31, holds a unique place in the annals of American education. He is likely the last student in America to have had an eraser thrown at him by a frustrated teacher. I was a witness to the event. Now that the statute of limitations has lapsed, I’ll even admit: I was the teacher who threw it.
I would like to think I hit Peter, but that I do not remember. I do not remember either why I threw it, but as Peter will confirm, he surely deserved it. The institution where this scene unfolded was Padre Pio Academy, a traditional Catholic school in Shawnee. At the time, I volunteered once a week to teach the high school kids journalism.
Peter must have resisted the teaching. An extraordinary school, Padre Pio is one of the five non-profits that have enriched the equally extraordinary life of Peter and his wife, Becca. More on the other four in due course. After Padre Pio, Peter went on to the University of Kansas and from there into Kansas state government.
I would run into Peter at political events over the years, and at each meeting he seemed to have moved closer to the center of power. He is now the assistant state treasurer. I attributed his rise to the clarifying effects of the thrown eraser. At one such meeting, I met Peter’s new bride, Becca. I had a hard time believing that such an attractive and intelligent young lady would marry Peter, but then again, he had been in my class at Padre Pio for three years. That must have been the equalizer.
Focus on Family Becca taught at the second non-profit in this story, the Church of the Ascension School in Overland Park. As much as Becca loved teaching there, she told her principal, Becky Wright, she hoped to step down soon, as she and Peter planned to have a baby. Becca also alerted Principal Wright that she might be called out of class at any moment if a kidney became available. At age 13, Becca had developed an autoimmune disorder that damaged her kidneys.
At 17, Becca received a kidney transplant that worked well for the next 10 or so years but was wearing out noticeably as Becky approached 30. She would need a new one. The kidney issue made it very nearly impossible for Becca to bear a child, so she and Peter set out to adopt a baby. Waiting for a baby can be as challenging and unpredictable as waiting for a kidney.
On the baby front, the Northcotts had the great good fortune of being introduced to non-profit No. 3, the St. Joseph’s Adoption Ministry of Kansas City, Kan. The Northcotts could not say enough good things about Sister Dolora May and her colleagues. “Kansas has by far the best adoption laws in America,” says Peter, but as fond as he is of Kansas state government, he understands its limits. “The sisters are able to do things that the government cannot do,” adds Peter. “They put their heart and soul into building and connecting families.”
Other than the kidney issue, Peter and Becca made great candidates from the perspective of Saint Joseph’s. Becca taught at a Cathol ic school, and Peter began his career at Kansans for Life. Besides that, of course, Peter enjoyed an excellent Catholic education—and had the chalk marks to prove it. In due time, St. Joseph’s identified a baby for the Northcotts.
Looking ahead to their first Christmas as a family of three, Becca Northcutt counts her blessings. “If you’re willing to go through it and suffer with Christ, at the end, everything is made new.”
The baby, to be born in Las Vegas, was bi-racial. Nevada laws are stickier than those of Kansas. There can be a racial component to the adoption process. But here the Northcotts had an advantage as well. Becca is bi-racial herself. The baby was due in June 2017. So, too, was the kidney, and before I go further on this part of the story, I would advise readers to take out their hankies.
All along, Becca had been keeping Principal Becky Wright apprised of her struggle to find a donor. If she found a new kidney, Wright would have to find a new teacher. One day, after listening to Becca’s travails, Wright surprised Becca. She volunteered to take the test to see if she and Becca were compatible.
As Becca knew through experience, friends occasionally volunteered, but few followed through and none had ever matched. Wright took the test, proved to be a match, and volunteered to go through with the transplant. “I had organ donation on my license, but just thought it would be after I passed away,” says Wright. Becca can barely bring herself to talk about this exceptional gesture of Christian love and courage. “She tells me, and I fall a little bit to pieces,” says Becca of Wright.
Donating a kidney is nearly as arduous as receiving one. For months prior to the transplant, Wright had to endure a regime of testing and training but, once committed, she was undeterred. In fact, just weeks before the surgery, she journeyed with a group of principals to the Holy Land, as good a place as any to seek Providence’s help.
Two other non-profits would make the transplant possible. One was the Midwest Transplant Network, and the second, most critically, was Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City, the oldest and most experienced program in the region. Wright’s kidney arrived on schedule at Saint Luke’s on June 30, 2017.
The baby had other plans. She came early, May 4, just a few days after Becca’s last class. The period between the arrival of the little girl and the arrival of the kidney was not an easy one. Peter and Becca spent seven weeks in Las Vegas clearing the paperwork and waiting for the baby to leave the hospital.
They returned home with their new little girl just nine days before the surgery. “Even though it feels like it’s never going to end and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, God truly does have a plan in the end,” says Becca. “If you’re willing to go through it and suffer with Christ, at the end, everything is made new.” New indeed! There is one more wrinkle on this story.
But I think we’ll save that one for next year …
Jack Cashill is Ingram's Senior Editor and has been affiliated with the magazine for more than 30 years. He can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this column are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Ingram's Magazine.