The common comforts of an American life are nearly immeasurable. Gratitude for everyday things means imagining life in their absence. For some it doesn’t take much imagination, only memory of the days before now. Nothing exists without the small, and nothing is too small to appreciate.
Years ago as my grandparents were driving through the mountains of North Georgia, my grandfather at the wheel and my grandmother at his side, my grandfather made a series of wrong turns before he realized he was lost. After trying several different routes he was not only unable to determine where they were headed, but he was eventually unable to get back to where they had been.
After all attempts had been exhausted he turned and said, “We’re lost.” My grandmother replied, “I’m not lost.” “What do you mean you’re not lost?” he asked. She said, “As long as I’m with you I’m not lost.”
The recognition that being together means never being lost is a profound truth. It was a characteristic of their marriage of over sixty years. Location didn’t matter. Time didn’t matter. Being together, side by side, patient with each other, and knowing that those we travel with are far more important than when or how we reach our destination was what mattered.
After making a few course corrections they eventually found their way back to familiar roads. Throughout the rest of their lives together they continued to travel across the back roads of Georgia with their children, grandchildren, and other family members, occasionally getting turned around but never lost. Their travels are a metaphor for their life together.
Are we truly lost when those who matter to us most are close by? My grandmother didn’t think so. Her nine little words, “As long as I’m with you I’m not lost”, speak volumes. They are also a reminder that kind words, spoken well, can last forever.
The American Cancer Society has branded its self, in part, as “The Official Sponsor of Birthdays.” Here at the National Home Office in Atlanta, Georgia we’ve known this was coming since December 2008 and many of us have anxiously awaited this launch with sealed lips. A new website, morebirthdays.com, went live yesterday and a few new ads were uploaded to YouTube.
So what is all of this about? For some people birthdays are a struggle. I have a family member who has been celebrating her 39th birthday for at least 15 years. Despite the challenges of aging, as we morph into something far different than a twenty year old body, I hope we can all agree that birthdays are a good thing. A very good thing. A birthday means you’re here. This may appear trivial, it’s no revelation, and I’m not saying anything new. What is important to know is that there is an organization that exists to ensure that you and I and everyone else continue to live healthily lives year after year.
Our vision is a world free of cancer. I’ve never worked for an organization that is as focused and driven to fulfill its mission than the American Cancer Society. From the epidemiologist here in Atlanta to our National Cancer Information Center in Austin, Texas the commitment to help people stay well and get well, by finding cures and fighting back is at the heart of everything we do. The same can be said for the volunteers and employees I’ve worked with across the nation. Their commitment is tangible.
I have found no other organization with the resources, knowledge, and skill that can compare to the American Cancer Society in this field of work. As a fully entrenched social networker I’ve been please to see that the Society has kept up with the new media of a web 2.0 world. We’ve integrated ourselves with Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Second Life and we will continue to reach out where ever people are to share our resources and our message of hope.
Our sister organization The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) in Washington, D.C. has been successful working with lawmakers to fight against Big Tobacco in the United States. It was no coincidence that in his February 24, 2009 address to Congress President Obama called for health care reform to include a “new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time” (April is National Cancer Control Month, by the way).
Nor is it a coincidence that a Bill was passed by the US House of Representatives granting the “Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products”. These things don’t happen without the voice and support of the people, and many organizations are coming together to ensure that our voice, your voice, is heard.
Living a life free of cancer is something for everyone to celebrate. Eleven million cancer survivors are celebrating birthdays because of our progress. Countless others have avoided cancer for the same reasons. As the old saying goes “knowledge is power.” Knowing how to get well and stay well is priceless.
So… Now that my lunch hour is coming to an end, it’s time for me to get back to work.
When a tent post is put in place everything rises. Be a tent post in your world. As you rise to do your duty, to be your best, everything and everyone around you is blessed. Choose to put forth the effort to be better at what you do and better at who you are.
Who are the tent posts in your life? Who has made your world better, your horizons wider, and you insights deeper because of their choices? Who are your examples for how to be?
In every aspect of life, we choose our leaders. It’s true that someone may be assigned to represent and guide us and, for a time, we may be obligated to follow, but if our heart isn’t in it we will choose someone else.
Others have chosen to look to you for guidance in some aspect of their life. They may never mention it and you may never know exactly when or where you made a difference. Your circle of influence is probably wider than you think. Each of us can choose our actions but we can never choose the consequences. So stand tall, lift from where you stand, and be true.
The stories of Myanmar and China will soon leave the media. Unfortunately we cannot rely on popular news outlets to keep us informed. Our media culture is suffering from cronic, industry wide, ADHD. Like hungry fish they are easy lured away, biting at anything shiny or new in a senseless game of catch and release.
Myanmar officials have raised the death toll to 78,000. The number will be higher tomorrow. If we are enabled to extend our hands to those who are suffering, what kind of creatures are we if we choose to stay our hands and sit on our wallets?
CARE International accepts donations of $50.00 or more and 90% of your donations are allocated to community development and emergency relief worldwide.
LDS Philanthropies accepts donations of one dollar or more and 100% of your donation will be directed to emergency relief for either Myanmar or China. You can designate where you want the funds allocated.
Administrative costs are funded through other means allowing 100% of donor contributions to be directed to those in need. Although LDS Philanthropies is associated with a church, no proselyting is involved. Humanitarian relief is distributed to those in need without regard to race, gender, religion, political, or social affiliation.
Sometimes the suffering of the innocent can bring about a unity of heart. Now is the time to let the suffering of those in Myanmar and China bring greater unity to us all.
Last night one of my sons asked me if we, the American Cancer Society, have a cure for cancer. I told him no, there is no all-encompassing cure for cancer. There are effective treatments and prevention methods but no “cure” in the sense he intended.
We’ve had several conversations over the past few weeks about the purpose of suffering and why so many seem to suffer without answers. What he was really asking is why do bad things happen to good people and who decides.
This weekend I’m taking him to Relay For Life, one of the American Cancer Society’s flagship events. I hope he will gain a wider perspective on suffering, hope, and the importance of perseverance. To see how powerful it is to give to those we don’t know, simply because we can.
I’ll also participate in the Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3). If you’re over 30 and under 65, have never had cancer, and are willing to fill out an annual survey for the next twenty years, I encourage you to come and participate in the study. There are several Relay For Life events across Georgia but this year the CPS-3 is only offered at Adams Stadium.
The data collected will be used to track life style, ethnicity, gender, and other factors against cancer rates in the 500,000 project volunteers.
If you want to give back in a personal yet private way, come to the Relay For Life at Adams Stadium this Friday, 05/16/08, between 6:30 PM and 10:30 PM fill out a few forms, give a blood sample, and make a difference. What else could you be doing of greater importance this Friday night? It’s free.
2383 N. Druid Hills Rd
Atlanta, GA 30329
Enrollment Hours 6:30pm – 10:30pm
For more information on CPS-3, or enroll in the study in your area, go to cancer.org/cps3.
What if Thanksgiving was proceeded by a day of national fasting? The whole nation volunteering to go without food or drink for 24 hours and everyone donating the money they would have spent on food to the charity of their choice. The fast would end on Thanksgiving Day so everyone would still eat.
What would be the impact on American attitudes towards health, humanity, self control, and sacrifice? I look forward to that day.
In the mean time, enjoy this fall photo and be good to your family.