Wednesday, September 23, 2009

everybody has something

on monday morning matt, little m, and i went to a memorial service for a man who was a mentor and friend to matt, the rev. dr. frank jackson. appropriately, monday happened to be world gratitude day, because frank epitomized living a life of thanks and gratitude. amidst the grief, was a celebration. it was pretty incredible to sit in a huge church packed full of people of all ethnicities, classes, backgrounds, geographies, ages, and grieve and celebrate together. 

after the service, as people milled about outside of the church, little m was running around after some "big" girls, trying to play with them. they were 8 and 9 years old, and complete strangers to little m, but somehow she caught their attention. i squatted down to be at the level of all of these little girls, and one of the girls said, "what are those things on her ears and head?" i said, "well, when she was born, she was born deaf. her ears can't hear anything. she had an operation to help her learn how to hear, and these are called implants; they help her hear the things in the world around her." i pulled one off and showed them how her implant worked, and said, "see? without this on right now she can't hear anything, but when she wears it she is learning how to listen." 

the little girl, who was wearing glasses & whose eyes were visibly damaged, nodded and said, "i was born with glaucoma. i have a tumor in my eye. but they couldn't fix it all the way. it's kind of hard sometimes." the second girl said, "i was born with really bad asthma. sometimes it's so bad my mom and dad think i'm going to die so they have to take me to the hospital because i can't breathe at all." the third girl said, "i was born with excema. sometimes it is all over my body and in my ears and even my special medicine doesn't work."

it was amazing to me that suddenly all of these girls were connected through the things that made them "different." i said, "it's true, everybody has something.

then i started thinking about people in my life - grown-ups, that is. 

everybody has something: cancer at a really young age, a child born with special challenges, a spouse who abandons or betrays, the inability to get pregnant, the death of a parent far too soon, unjust legal issues, broken vocational dreams, damaged family relationships, chronic pain, having to work at a life-sucking job to survive...

it is also true that some of us have more than others, so we need to encourage and listen to each other. our own pain can teach us how to be truly empathetic friends and how to love others in their loss. one of the things that struck me at frank jackson's funeral was how his life was full of joy, charisma, gratitude and gentleness, after an extremely difficult and broken childhood. we have a choice whether we allow our "something" to make us bitter, or allow it to mold us into kinder, more loving and compassionate people. 


  1. This post is the perfect example of why I am so very thankful our paths crossed on that fateful Play and Say morning earlier this year.

    You get it, Susannah, and express it so beautifully, both in your writing and how you live your life.

    I am sorry for the loss of your friend. It sounds like Rev. Frank Jackson was a resilient and joyful soul - I'm a big fan of resilience and joy!

  2. out of the mouths of babes...such wisdom. thanks for sharing that beautiful story.

    So sorry for your and Matt's loss. he sounds like he was an amazing man, pastor, and mentor.


  3. I'm sorry for your loss. And thankful for our perspective. It's true, everyone has something. We should be like those girls and tell each other about our something more often. Great post!

  4. this is amazing. thank you susannah.

  5. i love reading your posts because you make me laugh, cry, and think about what's really important in this life.


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