Christmas is a special time of year. It's a time when we gather with our families, friends and co-workers and show our love and appreciation to one-another by the giving of gifts, joyful gatherings and plenty of eating! It can also be a stressful time. A time of parking lot maladies, interrupted travel plans and the dreaded fear of receiving a gift for someone that you didn’t buy anything for.
Last Sunday, Deb and I experienced just that. We received a gift from someone that we didn’t expect. It went something like this….
We woke up on Sunday, both over-tired, stressed out, and lacking patience for one-another (moving house and office during the holidays can do that to you). Needless-to-say, that turned into a “marital moment” or, as I say in class, “DRAMA!”
Our plan was to rest and participate in the annual Jingle Rock Run that afternoon, a fundraising event for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. It’s a festive, short 5-K run that starts and ends at Mother Waldron Park in Kakaako, winding through downtown and past the colorful Honolulu City Lights. A fun event for a great cause. But when the race came around on Sunday, both mad at each other and not feeling too full of the "Christmas Spirit," we thought maybe we should just skip the event and stay home. BAH HUMBUG!
At the last minute, Deb decided she wanted to go, so we put aside our disagreements and headed out to join the 2,500 or so other runners, most of who were donned in Santa hats, reindeer ears, jingle bells and the like.
Debbie, who is a stronger runner than me (I just “slog” along - “slow jog”), jumped out ahead of me. At the half way point, however, she began feeling the effects of eating a late lunch and the fatigue of spending the last month moving and renovating our new home, so she decided to stop and walk. Trying to improve her results from the prior year, this decision really irritated her and she started mentally kicking herself. At that moment, a friendly young boy, Reece, came alongside her and asked her if they were at the half way point. He, too, was feeling tired and thirsty, and was also frustrated because last year he ran the whole way and had finished strong. They walked together, sharing their disappointments and lamenting over their better prior year results. Debbie was amazed how especially personable he was for a teenager and his smiling, friendly face brought great joy and welcome company to what she dubbed a “walk of shame” (for walking instead of running).
As they continued on, Debbie noticed that he was wearing a dark blue t-shirt rather than the standard red one, the blue ones being nomally reserved for Make-a-Wish families and children. She asked him who he was running for and he replied that he was running for himself. Debbie’s heart sunk and then she bravely asked him what condition he had. He told her that he had cancer but was now in remission.
Inspired by Reece’s positive attitude, courage and spirit and feeling a lump rise in her throat, she told Reece that she would run harder for him and picked up her pace to start running again. Just about that time, I caught up to them and Deb quickly whispered his story in my ear. Before leaving, she ran ahead to the water station to grab him a cup of water and then took off.
As we proceeded down the course, I told Reece how he touched Debbie’s heart and gave her a special, unforgettable gift - the gift of inspiration.
Debbie was waiting for me at the finish line and we both stayed and waited for Reece, who was not far behind us. We exchanged high-fives, hugs and congratulatory words. What was most touching was him patting Deb on the back and saying “good job!”
After the race, we had a chance to meet Reece’s dad, who told us that Reece’s wish to go to Walt Disney World in Florida had helped him fight through his cancer. His Make-A-Wish dream had given him hope to persist and never give up. He had something to look forward to, for him, it was a “Big Why.” We also learned that Reece is a “Make-A-Wish Ambassador” and has been instrumental in the Macy’s “Believe” campaign, helping other kids achieve their dreams. I encourage you to take a minute and read this heart-warming story: Macy's National Believe Day Inspires Local Keiki To Pay It Forward.
After the race, Debbie was so moved and so happy to see Reece healthy and running that she made a sizable donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Reece’s name. He was so grateful and, like the awesome kid he is, thanked us for our generosity to which Debbie quickly replied, “You've given me more than I could ever give you.” Reece’s reply? “It’s all about giving, right?”
By the way, all runners get a race or “bid” number, which is pinned to their T-shirt. Reece’s number was “307.” Debbie was blown away when she realized that his bid number was her birthday - March 7. Coincidence? We don’t think so. Sometimes angels cross our path, who give us hope, galvanize our strength and rekindle our spirits.
Thank you Reece, on this Christmas Day, for a gift that truly represents the real spirit of Christmas. There is no doubt in our minds that God sent us a real angel that night and placed him on our path and in our hearts forever!
By Glenn Furuya
As originally published on leadershipworks.com.