Each year, St. Martin's participates in Race for the Cure, a breast cancer fundraising and awareness event. We take great pride in knowing that for years now, ours has been the largest group of volunteers of any contributing school. Before I reach out to you about this important cause, and appeal to you to participate, I want to share with you that I have never joined our team as a volunteer. The reason for my lack of participation likely appears irrational. It is a cause you might think I would champion. But, having lost a child to cancer, it is a topic that I instinctively push from my thought in an effort to protect my heart. Because I was asked to write from my personal experience, I will honor the request, and will try here.
Hope is something that is strengthened by knowing that there is support. Throughout Jenn's illness, our family was bolstered by the support of friends, family and strangers. It helped us to not feel alone. It helped to keep us going. All the support helped to give us hope. So, I encourage you to give of your time to this important cause, knowing that by participating you are holding up the people who are fighting daily battles, and offering hope for an end to their suffering. Service is a pillar of St. Martin's Mission Statement. It defines us. And our efforts to serve others underscore that cause. As you read this, whether in New Orleans and able to volunteer for the race, or away from the city and therefore unable, please decide to help support our efforts to educate our children to hold service as important in life as our other two pillars: faith and scholarship.
The following is an excerpt from a story I am writing about our experience with our daughter Jenn. Service, and reaching out to others, was woven into the fabric of her life. It is a lasting quality which we cherish.
The first glimmer of light, after weeks of doubt and darkness, came when Jenn, our 24-year-old daughter, and I were in the waiting room nervously anticipating her first radiation treatment. We were sitting together quietly, both overwhelmed and both terribly scared. The cloud of cancer had settled over us and for the past few weeks it consumed our every thought. Understandably, Jenn had become edgy and self-absorbed. She wasn't herself, and neither was I. Words were suddenly awkward between us and we hardly knew what to say to each other.
After a few minutes, the door to the waiting room opened, and in walked a young mother and a little girl of seven or eight years. It was obvious that the little girl was the cancer patient. Both mother and daughter looked as frightened and intimidated as we felt. This was obviously not their first visit to this room because the child moved with familiarity to the area on the rug where toys were carefully arranged. She picked up her favorite and held it in her lap. A moment later, I looked up to see Jenn crossing the room to where the little girl sat. She knelt down, picked up a little stuffed doll, and they quietly began talking, girl to girl; stuffed doll to stuffed doll, patient to patient. Jenn smiled her beautiful, light-up-the-world smile and, for the first time in weeks, I felt at home again. I was at home in knowing that our Jenn was back, and that her giving spirit would never be lost.
One of Jenn's most charming qualities was her generosity. She loved little children and animals and they loved her right back. And on that day, in spite of her fears and doubts, Jenn put herself aside and helped that little friend laugh and play. For those next happy moments they found themselves giggling and pretending, until the door opened once again, and Jenn was called in for her treatment.
Today, whenever I learn that a friend or acquaintance is facing a serious illness, I have only one piece of advice to offer: look for the good. In spite of the impossible, surreal nature of dealing with the ravages of a disease such as cancer, there are inevitably wonderful moments of goodness and love that will carry everyone involved through and beyond. It is those moments that we can grab on to, cherish, and build on. The blessings in even the hardest of life's darkest moments carry us through until we feel the light warming us once again.
At St. Martin's we are a part of the healing for others through our dedication to service. As a Race for the Cure volunteer, you will not only be giving of your time, but your very presence will give strength and hope to those who need it to carry them along. Let's share our blessings!