When a family faces a crisis, everything changes – perspectives, language, conversations, outlooks, and relationships.
A new normal is established.
I equate these situations to walking into a new room, a room you knew existed, but never had to enter. Once you are in it, you are in new territory, with many others who have either been there a long time or maybe just arrived, as you have. Either way, your reality has changed. How long you stay in that room might be completely out of your control, but what you choose to do and be in that room is completely up to you. And even if you are able to leave, you will never be the same.
While we were visiting Magnetic Island, Australia, we met a family who entered the Cancer room when their 9-year old son, Daniel – now 21 – was diagnosed with a brain tumor. They chose to be there with humor, love, generosity, curiosity and optimism.
I first noticed Daniel during breakfast at the hostel.
He had a charming enthusiasm and curiosity about him. Later, while holding koalas at a reserve, we encountered Daniel and his family again. Not surprisingly, he and Allison were the first to hit it off.
Daniel is legally blind due to the brain tumor. Drugs he took for the cancer caused him to develop epilepsy and diabetes. Daniel continues to work at stabilizing his health, and does it with a remarkable sense of humor and optimism.
Daniel’s way of meeting and engaging us was to perform a slight-of-hand magic trick, followed by a string of jokes. We were hooked. Next, we met Daniel’s Dad, Brian. It was easy to see where Daniel inherited his sense of humor and quick wit. Before we knew it, we were invited to play a round of golf with Brian, Cheryl (Mom), Daniel, Matthew (older brother), Lisa (sister-in-law) and Graham (Lisa’s grandfather) that evening. Without hesitation, we jumped on the opportunity.
We had no idea what we were in for, and we are so glad we said yes, because the experience was exactly what our family was craving. After a rowdy, sprinkler-dodging round of golf, we were invited to a good old-fashioned Aussie BBQ. It was the first home-cooked food we had eaten since being on the trip. The kids devoured the dessert, and the conversation fed our souls. We talked about everything from WWII to economics to managing medical issues to travel to volunteering. The conversation ran the gamut, interspersed with lots of laughter and jokes.
We learned a lot about this family over the course of the evening. We were captivated by the story of their recent trip to Vanuatu, an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. They had first traveled to Vanuatu several years ago and had a wonderful time. Sometime later, Daniel came to Cheryl and Brian with an idea. He wanted to take his monthly checks from the state and use the money to purchase items to donate to a school in Vanuatu. Brian and Cheryl enthusiastically agreed and offered to match his donation. Over several months, they collected items such as books, toys, and medical supplies, then set out with four suitcases packed tightly with supplies, looking to find a school in need.
After arriving in Vanuatu, they managed to locate a woman they had met on their first trip, years before. They asked her if there was a school that might want the items they brought. With great excitement, she introduced them to a local teacher, who cried when she saw what was in their suitcases. Since then, Brian, Cheryl and Daniel have made it their personal mission to continue giving supplies to the school. Their next trip is coming soon, a result of Daniel’s desire to give back and help others. This is just one example of how amazing this family is.
Twelve years ago, Daniel and his family entered the cancer room and then the room of ongoing disability. From those rooms, they have chosen to spread love, fun and optimism to everyone they meet. Daniel doesn’t let his disabilities stop him, including playing an impressive round of golf. He has published a joke book and gives the proceeds to help disabled children. His strong faith in God has given him a desire to become a minister.
Next year, the family plans to travel to the US. We hope to treat them to an American BBQ in our own backyard. Daniel’s main goal is to meet Louise Hay, renowned healer, author, and speaker who founded Hay House Publishers. We hope to help him fulfill his dream and invite you to join us in holding it with him. Or maybe you have access to Ms. Hay and can help us connect.
For us, this trip is not just about seeing the incredible sites around the world but meeting incredible people. It’s about learning of ways to help, and being inspired to be our best selves, regardless of the room we are in. This goal was realized by meeting Daniel, Brian and Cheryl.
If you would like more information about the school this family is supporting, please contact me and I will put you in touch with Brian and Cheryl.