Last weekend was the Relay for Life. I was unable to participate this year because of an out-of-town family wedding. However, the boys stayed back to help out. We became involved in this the first year because it was a community service project for Craig for National Junior Honor Society. It also has a personal connection as I lost an uncle to lung cancer (he was 42 at the time), and we lost my mother-in-law to pancreatic cancer in 2001. While the boys were small at the time, and the disease progressed quickly after her diagnosis (about 6 weeks), it still had a profound impact on the kids. So we continue to participate and contribute as a key household cause.
When my grandmother died 2 years ago, each of the boys inherited just over $5000. I'm not sure what the oldest one did with his--he's an adult. But the younger two came to me and said that they'd like to take some to help others. Craig donated $500 to American Cancer Society, while Matt donated $500 to Hospice in honor of the care they provided for his beloved great grandmother. Not too many 13 and 15 year-olds who would do that unprompted, and it made me sooooo proud.
Imagine my surprise this morning during my Saturday morning long-bath/read-the-paper ritual. I was reading an article about this year's relay in the Bedford Press. The football coach (such a life coach actually!) wants the boys to participate in community service events, and many chose to be part of Troy's team in the Relay. Troy is a junior high football player who was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma last fall at the beginning of the football season. The kids have rallied behind him, and the football team (including parents) have tried to assist the family when possible as they go through this very difficult period. By the time I got to the end of the article (and even now as I write this), I was bawling. Lois (Troy's mom) singled out Craig and his efforts. To say that I am proud and humbled would be an understatement. I have taught my kids to pay it forward, often to what seems like deaf ears. To know that the lesson has sunk in, and that they unconditionally move to do the right thing is truly a blessing.
And it's not just my kids. Shortly after my grandmother passed, one of the kids' friends was killed in a very tragic accident. I started a scholarship in memory of our Philly, and one of the key requirements in the scholarship is an essay on what it means to make a positive impact on others. Because I am acquainted with this year's winners, I can honestly say that they live the idea of paying it forward on a daily basis. It comes as naturally to them as breathing. They do so without the expectation of kudos--they do it simply because they care. So I'd like to congratulate Joe Martin and Courtney Loe--not just on receiving the scholarship award, but for being the type of role models for peers and adults as well.
It is reassuring to know that there are so many in the next generation who understand the significance of giving, of making a positive impact, of potentially changing a life with a simple gesture.