The toughest kid I ever met
I once volunteered at a party for families of young cancer patients. These people had come from around the world to the local children’s hospital searching for cures. Just a few decades ago, four out of every five of those families would lose their child to cancer. Today, scientific and medical progress has increased the survival rate so that four out of every five children survive after being diagnosed with cancer.
The families all lived in a nicely furnished home away from home that was made possible by the generous donation of an international restaurateur. The place was so clean and had a community kitchen where the families could cook meals for each other. The volunteers played with the kids in the enormous playroom.
One child sought me out to play with him. He was a sturdy young man, but you could tell what he was suffering from just by looking at him. He was bald and his head was covered in stitches. His scalp looked like the cover of a baseball. It hurt a little bit to see this young man like that because all you could think about was how much he was probably suffering. I must’ve hid my discomfort pretty well because the kid seemed at ease with me.
We started playing and he started playing a lot tougher than I expected a cancer patient to play. He was much stronger than I anticipated and seemed eager to spend every bit of his strength at play. All I thought about was how terrible it would be if I hurt him while playing, but he was probably stronger than me if you want to know the truth.
He took a break and I went over to the organizer of the party, a wonderful lady who’s been a great mentor to me throughout the years. I told her, “I’m really afraid to play rough with that kid there. I’m afraid I might accidentally hurt him.” I’ll never forget how she responded to me.
She said, “He wants to be as much a regular boy as he can right now, while he still can, so let him play rough if he wants to play rough.”
So we played rough. And I think I got tired more than he did. We played until we were both wore out.
Days after that party, my mentor told me the young man passed away. I never forgot him and how strong he was, both physically and spiritually. I couldn’t believe such a strong young man like him had lost his life.
We all hate injustice. We can’t believe when certain people get promoted at work and when certain others who’ve worked so hard get overlooked or even punished. Life seems so unfair sometimes. And life is unfair sometimes.
Then I think about that strong young man and how his life ended too soon. Now that’s unfair.
Yet I also think back to how that young man played and what my mentor told me. “He wants to be as much a regular boy as he can right now, while he still can.” He could’ve lied down, felt sorry for himself and cursed his luck. But he decided to use every last ounce of his strength to play until he was wore out.
If life is unfair to you, you can focus on what more you deserve or on what you have left. That young man taught me we can lose in life, but we owe it to ourselves to give life a hell of a battle until we’re done fighting.