I was walking behind a woman in a purple t-shirt at the Relay for Life when she exited the track towards a young girl who was obviously trying hard to fight back tears. It was clear that those around her had done their best to comfort her until her mom arrived and pulled her into her arms. I have to admit that, for a second, I wished I had my camera, so I could capture the emotions of that young girls' face. It was clear that she needed her mom, and my heart went out to her. Of course, I didn't stop and snap a photo; I just kept going.
A little while later, I decided to check out the Beautiful Lengths/Locks of Love area, where people came to donate their long hair to be made into wigs for cancer patients. Coincidentally, the same young girl was there, without tears; a look of pride and determination on her face, and a shirt to match her intent...
Her cute mom was standing nearby, lit up with a smile, and taking pictures. I explained that I have a blog and planned to post the before/after pictures. We made more small-talk, and being the nosy person I am, I asked, "Do you mind if I ask why she was crying earlier? I noticed her when I was walking the track. It looked like she was pretty upset. Was she having second thoughts about cutting her hair?" The mom smiled and shared that she is a fourth-month breast cancer survivor; her daughter had just been overwhelmed by the whole Survivors Lap experience.
It all made sense, then; the purple shirt is the Relay for Life cancer survivor's t-shirt color.
The mom and I continued to talk while the girl got her haircut. I told her that while I personally don't know anyone fighting cancer, I'm happy to participate in Relay for Life, because I know it makes a difference. I shared that last night (just like last year), I really didn't feel like going to the relay; I had so many things to do, but people were expecting me, so I went and was so glad. What people don't realize is that when you volunteer, you always get far more back than you put in. You might think that signing up for Relay for Life is going to be some big chore, but then you see those people in the first lap (The Survivors Lap) and find tears streaming down your face (whether or not you know any of the walkers!) and you know; you've just been given a gift.
The mom agreed wholeheartedly and told me, "You should tell people that on your blog!" I assured her that I have and will continue. There is nothing like volunteering to make you feel like you really matter in this world; that you have a purpose and belong to something greater than yourself. The payoff for getting involved is far greater than anything you put into it.
After I took this adorable mother-daughter shot, I told the mom I'd be happy to mail the photos and the link to my post if she'd give me her email address. She happily wrote it out for me and added her name to the bottom; Barbie Mleziva. As she handed it to me, she looked at me and smiled, saying, "It was so nice talking with you; you're inspiring."
Wow. What a wonderful thing to say to a perfect stranger! I'm sharing this not to "toot my own horn" (as Mom would say) but because of what happened next...
A gentleman in the center of the gym called everyone over to hear the day's guest speaker, Barbie Mleziva! The mom whose ear I had just talked-off got up on the stage and took the mic. She shared her cancer journey; the discovery of the rare form of breast cancer, how it affected her family, and how she fought it. She remarked that her "50/50 chance" of survival grew to 70/30 because of people who help fight for a cure. She demonstrated a healthy sense of humor by modeling her new "front-end alignment" (a.k.a. boob job) and related how the experience of cancer is like a rollercoaster ride; one you finish out of breath, glad to be alive, and looking for a t-shirt that proclaims, "I survived!" This mother of four who's lived with cancer, had radical surgery, and fought courageously through it, who has raised a beautiful young daughter who happily had her hair chopped off for the cause, and who wears a big smile as she listens to strangers babble on called me inspiring.
I am not worthy...
[This post has been audio-recorded. A link can be found in the right-hand sidebar.]