Tomorrow at 11:30 AM, you will embark upon perhaps the most courageous journey any of us will ever experience.
In church, we spend a lot of time discussing “God’s plan for us” and “how God works through us” and “how God intends to use us”, and as I sat there today, I thought about you, and your upcoming surgery, and about what your plan could possibly be. And, then it dawned on me:
In our society, we have all kinds of people who hold all kinds of different roles. Some of us must be leaders, others are distinguished followers. Some of us must be cashiers, others are bridge builders. Some of us are problem-creators, and others are problem-solvers. And, some of us are sacrificers. Much like Jonas from The Giver, who gives up his family in order to bear the burden of society’s faults, or Spiderman, who conceals his own true identity and must suppress his ego in order to save society from evil doers, or Jesus in The Bible, who dies for our sins, sacrificers serve to remind us non-sacrificers of the expanse of human potentiality, and the irrelevancy of the problems we often devote too much of our time focusing on.
I think we see a similar effect through our fascination with celebrities and sports stars. Why do we love Peyton Manning? Because he allows us to live vicariously through him: we see him get viciously sacked and tackled, jump right back up, and score a winning touchdown. It reminds us that, the bruise we received from running into the counter is not going to kill us, so we man up, and continue on with our lives. If Peyton Manning can sustain THAT kind of hit and still win a football game, our minor injuries are not really a big deal. And, we love once-nobodies like Taylor Swift, because she gives us the illusion that, with a little hard work, a little talent, and a lot of faith, we have the potential to make it big someday, too. We like looking into other people’s lives, because they remind us to keep perspective on our own.
Ryan, as I sat in church this morning, it dawned on me that I think your role in life is to be a sacrificer, which is perhaps THE most noble position anyone could ever be called to hold.
I thought about your entry into Make-A-Wish, and I thought about what a great week that is for our school. One of my favorite things about being a teacher is that I get to see kids go through some tough stuff: divorces, medical problems, losses, moving, the realization that I might not graduate, etc. And, yet, when Make-A-Wish week comes around, the school is united in an effort to think outside themselves; to focus their energies on something larger than their own lives. It’s truly one of the most humbling events I have ever witnessed.
We live in a very unique environment, in which most of the kids you go to school with have NO idea what dealing with real problems is like. I hear this in my classes all the time. These kids worry about seemingly trivial things, such as someone who wore the same homecoming dress, or when the newest upgrade on the iPhone 6 is coming out, or about the minor paper cut that inhibits their ‘writing processes’. We really cannot fault them, because it is about perspective, and they are so sheltered, that they have no idea what it is like to not be able to go to homecoming, because you have to work that night to provide food for your family. Or, that you were really excited to get a hand-me-down iPhone 4 for Christmas, because your parents cannot afford anything else. Or, that people who undergo chemo would MUCH rather suffer from a paper cut.
I think, what is so great about you, is that YOU have the ability to remind us about the important things in life. As I went about last week, and found myself getting upset at someone for not putting the peanut butter lid on correctly, or the kid who rolled her eyes at me after I asked her to put her phone away, or the co-worker who made an arrogant pass at a question I asked, I stopped myself, and I thought about you. I thought about the journey you are about the embark upon, the range of emotions you are probably going through, and I realized that, these ARE minute details in the grand scheme of life.
How cool is it that you can give that gift to people? To remind us to hug our friends a little tighter, to tell our family we love them one extra time, to give a genuine smile to a stranger, because THOSE are the most important parts of life. This very special role is only gifted to a select few, and luckily, you are one of them.
Ryan, you are an incredible young man. Your courage and steadfastness is an inspiration to us all. Good luck tomorrow. We will be rooting for you and can’t wait to see you tumor free!