Lessons From the World of Childhood Cancer

Last week I had the opportunity to volunteer with my wife and daughter at an amazing ministry called Blue Skies. Blue Skies provides a week-long, beach respite for families who have a child with cancer. Spending time with these incredible families taught me a few important lessons.

EVERYONE CAN CHOOSE OPTIMISM

There is a difference between being happy and being optimistic. The former is dependent on circumstances and the latter is a choice. No one who receives a cancer diagnosis is happy, but many are optimistic and full of joy. Of the hundred or so people who were at Blue Skies last week, the ones who showed the most joy were the kids - often the kids with cancer. In some instances, this was because they didn’t realize they were sick. In others, it was because their illness has given them the strength to say no to pessimism. Don’t think choosing optimism is synonymous with living in denial; it’s not. Optimism is being aware of the facts but believing the best. Denial is ignoring the facts, and is not a healthy place to live - but it might be better than dwelling in the land of pessimism. Being around those who have chosen optimism in the midst of extreme challenge has convicted me to pursue it more as well.

EVERYONE HAS A PLATFORM

Every person has been given a platform from which they are able to influence others. The size of one’s platform is a result of many variables including life’s hardships. How difficult circumstances are handled either expands or shrinks a person’s influence. When others face troubles, they want to learn from those who have navigated similar paths with poise. I am so very thankful that I have been influenced by my new friends who are choosing to use their unwanted platforms for good.

EVERYONE HAS A STORY

The families I met at Blue Skies look a lot like my family or yours or any family that lives in my neighborhood or attends my church. And in many ways they are – they love to laugh, play in the ocean and eat pizza. They get up each day and go to work, school, and band or ball practice. Yet in other ways they are living in another world as they battle against childhood cancer.

I was reminded that we never fully know what is going on in the lives of those we pass on the street or those we politely greet at the grocery store or those who cut us off in traffic. It may not be cancer, but everyone has a story. Most have elements of their story they wish were different. Some have painful parts of their story they are powerless to change. I wonder how I would treat people if I knew their full story. I imagine I would be slower to judge and quicker to show compassion and interest.

Each time I meet with another person I change their story in some way and they change mine. Usually these interactions and changes are small, but sometimes they lead to seasons of friendships and occasionally to lifelong relationships. To enter into someone’s story is no small thing, but stories are better when they are shared. My story is better because of those who were vulnerable enough to share theirs with me. I hope their stories are better as well.

Click here to learn how you can serve at Blue Skies or give to this important ministry.