A lot--most, in fact--of these days that I have lived have blurred together into one big mass of memory. Lessons, friends, weather, vacations, exams, meals, lectures, relatives, school years. They come and go, some with but a whisper of an impact on you. So fleeting. But some things are different. Some people are different.
One February day during my junior year of high school I walked into Physiology. Mrs. Abbott, probably off on some HOSA conference or something, was gone and had left us to a sub. Great. Every student in the public school system knows what a joke substitute teachers are. Their main job is just to hold down the fort and make sure no one gets killed until the real teacher can get back and restore order and learning to the classroom. It also didn't help much that it was 4th period and we all just wanted to go to lunch. I hoped we'd just watch some science movie reviewing the action potential or something like that, so then we wouldn't get confused with all this new material from someone who hadn't taken science for at least a couple decades, let alone taught it. Like that old guy we had as a sub the two times before that Mrs. Abbott was gone. From my seat in the back of the classroom, I scrutinized our sub, my opinion already formed.
Oh how I was mistaken.
She was youngish (for sure less than 10 years older than us), looked pretty spunky, and had short (and I mean short) spiky hair. We were learning about cancer that day, and she was going to give the lecture. (I sighed. No animated action potential movie today.) I'm sure she welcomed us to class and introduced herself, but I don't remember her name, where she was from, what she was doing with her life, why she was a substitute teacher at age 23 (or however old she was), or how Mrs. Abbott knew her. But, I do remember two things about her.
1. She was a breast cancer survivor.
2. She was one of the happiest people I have ever met in my life.
I will never forget her attitude. It sounds cliche, I know. "Attitude is everything" blah blah blah. But all I know is that I left class that day reeling inside. How could she be that happy? She had been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 19, experienced tremendous amounts of pain, survived chemotherapy, lost her hair, and all those other baggage items that go with cancer. And on top of that, she was only a couple years older than me. Only 5% of all cases of breast cancer occur in women under 40 years old. She didn't deserve this. She didn't ask for it. But, in spite of it all, she seriously emanated happiness, contentness, and joy. She was so dang happy! It caught us all by surprise; it accused me in my own personal "woes." Or at least...what I had previously considered as woes. Suddenly having to lead sectionals where it seemed like no one cared about becoming a better musician, Mom making me clean the bathroom on Saturday nights when I was about to walk out the door, and that looming research paper for English didn't seem quite so...pertinent. Or important. I will forever be grateful for her example of hope. I'm sorry I don't remember her name. She never knew she inspired me, and she probably never will. One thing her memory has taught me, though, is that if people have influenced me for good, I want them to know about it. And I want you, my faithful readers :), to know about it. Thank you. Apart from making my site counter look impressively high and leaving comment after comment on my lists-turned-blogs, you are my family and friends, and each of you really has shaped me, has touched my life in a way, big or small, that you may or may not realize. Thanks! I love who I am, and I love the people I am around and have opportunities to associate with! You are all such great examples to me. Thanks for letting me mooch off your greatness.
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.