Is there a dream-defender in your life?
There were always several hands in the air during the Q&A. The freshmen were my favorite. “Ooh, me, me! Pick me!” So full of enthusiasm and hope. Surprisingly attentive.
Gary and I were at a local high school, presenting in three different health classes about living well with terminal disease. I had almost forgotten how much fun it was to hang out with teenagers.
Each class was an hour and a half in length, which left plenty of time for interaction. We brought Hershey’s chocolate kisses to encourage intelligent questions.
Some would call it bribery.
There were always several hands in the air during the Q&A:
“How did your children take the news?”
“Do you appreciate life more now?”
“Why do you say, ‘We have cancer’?”
One of my questions for the students was this: “Do you have to go out for track to get an ‘A’ in this class?” (The health teacher, Dave Turnbull, is also the track coach with a reputation for state trophies.)
“Not really,” the students answered.
“It helps!” Mr. Turnbull interjected.
Someone named Wilferd A. Peterson said:
Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.
Back in year three of cancer, Gary mused out loud: “Wouldn’t it have been great, when I was diagnosed, to talk with another couple who looked like they were living well with cancer? To find out what they were doing?”
And so we brainstormed over what it might look like if we were that couple.
We drafted a tag-team presentation and asked for critique from an oncologist. He then recruited a team of medical professionals to provide additional feedback.
This doctor was one of our dream defenders.
We met with a CPA who helped us with the paperwork of becoming a 501(c)(3) non-profit, enlisted a board of directors, and started looking online for grant funding.
It was one of our ways of leaning into an uncertain season—embracing it, not afraid of it, believing something good could come of it.
While holding down our day jobs, I booked speaking engagements in all regions of the country—at medical conferences, rotary clubs, churches, survivorship luncheons, nursing student conventions, and cancer centers.
Which explains what we were doing hanging out in health class with teenagers.
Here’s what you need to know: Gary and I had never established a non-profit. Although I managed grants in my job at the cancer center, I had never written for grant funding. Gary was the type who would’ve paid to not stand in front of audiences and speak.
We were way out of our league. And yet we persisted in telling our living-well-with-cancer story – spreading hope and sharing practical take-away tips.
This wisdom from Beth Moore:
Nothing about outward focus during inward pain is natural but it could well be our survival. If you and I want to lie down and die long before we’re dead, being self-consumed in our season of suffering should do the trick.
It’s normal to focus inwardly. On us. On our setbacks and the complications in life that affect our families, our finances, our future.
Sometimes, though, part of our restoration can be as simple as looking outwardly and then doing something about what we see.
It’s easier, more comfortable, less risky to stay home with feet propped on coffee table, watching other people lead extraordinary lives.
But Gary and I determined to get off the couch and venture out, dispensing hope and courage and laughter to audiences in all regions of the country.
And in the process, we created more fun and adventure than during any other period of our marriage.
The quote from Wilferd A. Peterson at the beginning of this piece—about walking with the dreamers and the courageous and letting their spirits ignite a fire within us—this resonates with me.
It’s not a lightweight platitude about dreaming.
It speaks about the audacity, the courage, the persistence to roll up our sleeves and show up and do the mundane, dreary, thankless work of getting a dream off the ground.
What if our own brokenness could be restored as we seek an outward focus, as we look for opportunity to help ease the hardship and sorrow of others around us?
What if we could associate with people who believe in the beauty of our goals as much as God does?
And what if we could be a dream defender for someone else?
Hang out with these people, says Peterson. Be these people.