While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about. – Angela Schwindt
When it comes to talking or writing about the children I featured in my book, Once Upon A Wish: True Stories of Make-A-Wish Children, it is difficult to know where to begin.
I wrote the book to honor the resilience and bravery of these children, but I never could have foreseen the amount of strength and joy these little people would possess and how deeply they would resonate with me. They are children with adult-like outlooks and souls of steel.
After getting a literary agent and eventually a publisher, it was time for me to start writing the book, which meant traveling the country to meet these Wish children and their families.
I had written countless stories about local Wish children at the newspaper where I had worked as a reporter, but this was different.
There were no column-inch restrictions. There was nothing stopping me from writing every detail of their stories, and so I did. I captured every laugh, tear, impossibility, defeat, loss, gain, and triumph of situations I could not relate to.
Stories of Peace and Hope
I have two children of my own, which pained and numbed me to the core while I listened to and wrote about such unthinkable circumstances.
But more importantly, I was equally affected by the peace and hope I found while hearing and retelling these stories. Each family’s story was different, each illness and journey and outcome. They lived in different places, had different beliefs, lived totally different lives.
But somehow, they were all the same. They all had outlooks and appreciations for life that I didn’t even know existed.
One night, after spending all day with one of the Wish families in the book, interviewing until the wee hours of the morning, I drove to my hotel, through dark woods and silenced highways, with only my thoughts to keep me company. I felt heavy with guilt for classifying anything I had ever been through as stressful or difficult.
Sure, I, just like every other soul out there, have been through difficult times, but nothing like what these families had been through.
I had never been impacted by having my world, in full, forward-moving motion, put to a complete halt due to sickness.
I’ve never had to involuntarily sleep outside of my bed or my home to lie in a hospital bed. I’ve never had to wait for news from doctors that would determine the rest of my child’s life. I’ve never had major surgery or anything life-threatening to speak of.
Life. Threatening. Something that threatens life. The thought alone is terrifying.
New Leases and Attitudes
But as terrifying and difficult as it was, each of the families I interviewed faced it head-on because they had to. They made every impossible decision, held each other up, found strength in every ounce of good news, and never lost hope.
And when they came out the other side, they had new leases and attitudes on life that I knew I, and the rest of the world, could learn and benefit from. Not one member of any of the families I wrote about takes a single moment for granted.
They don’t stress about the little things. They live for right now. They appreciate things the rest of us might overlook and never even see or appreciate.
This is the way I want to live. I believe that happiness is a choice. You can focus on the good, or you can dwell on the bad. Why not look at the bright side?
Why not focus on what we have, not what we don’t?
These families changed me. Their messages of hope and survival and the way they walk through life are so powerful that they changed the way I walk through mine.
I wonder how they’ll impact yours.