by Joe Flores –

Become the Change

After a productive day in the Loop, I was walking home from the train on Monday. It was a gorgeous day, one of those days that makes you forget that you live in the Midwest for a minute. It was borrowed from Southern California and transplanted some 2,000 miles away, smack dab into the Chicago suburbs.

As I got off the Metra, I took my all-too-routine walk down West street, but getting crazy, I decided to change things up a little. I took a walk by my kids’ elementary school, meandered through the playground, and just three blocks further, ended up cutting through the backside of the junior high that butts up to my house.
As an adult, you don’t expect to find life lessons at a junior high. I guess, when you’re an 11 year old kid, life schools you pretty regularly in the halls and on the outdoor basketball courts. For me, however, I just didn’t anticipate that, right then and there, on a random Monday afternoon, that I would help teach two life lessons to three kids playing hide and seek.
All three boys were on their bicycles. On the northeast corner of the building, one boy started counting down from 20. The other two boys rode their bikes around to the east side of the building and looked for hiding spots. I was about 30 or 40 yards away and found the scene pretty funny; who the hell plays hide and seek in broad daylight next to a school that doesn’t really have great hiding spots to begin with? That said, I was happy to see that kids occasionally take breaks from their iPhones and X-Boxes and actually get outside and play every now and then.
Anyways, I kept an eye on both boys who rode away looking for hiding spots. One of the kids hid along a wall that jutted out from the east side of the building; not a very good spot, but
when your options are nil, you do your best. The other kid, he found a Port-O-John that was about two hundred feet from where the Counter stood and he hid behind that.
When the Counter got down to zero, he started south from his perch and made some comment to himself about how he was going “to get the bastards.”
I saw him rolling along and figured I might make his life a little easier so I yelled to him “HEY! Check the Port-O-John!!”
Guess who wasn’t a fan of that?
The kid positioned behind the outhouse let out an annoyed “AWW MAN!!! THAT’S NOT FAIR!!” Guess what, kid….
Life Lesson #1: Life ain’t fair.
As I continued down the walking track that encircles the baseball fields that are adjacent to the school, the Counter called out to me and yelled “Thanks!!” He genuinely appreciated that little piece of information that I was able to impart.
Life Lesson #2: Never underestimate the kindness of strangers.
A Helping Hand
As I thought about it, those same two life lessons presented themselves to me just two days earlier at a Panera at 106th and Cicero in Oak Lawn of all places. That prior Saturday morning, August 11th, my fellow Becky’s Warriors’ board members Megan, Tammie, Tracy, and I gathered around a stocky, rectangular table shortly before 9. We had scheduled some time with a young family who had been schooled over the past year in Life Lesson #1.
This family [(Han and Leia, Luke, and Qui-Gon) their names withheld for privacy and changed to Star Wars’ names – because Luke really loved the character Qui-Gon Jin!] had their fair
share of stress thrown at them in the past 12 months:
– Han (MCHS ‘04) was diagnosed with testicular cancer and subsequently underwent chemotherapy.
– Leia (MCHS ‘03) became pregnant with Qui-Gon.
– Leia had contracted gestational diabetes during her pregnancy with Qui-Gon.
– Due to the diagnosis/treatment, Han’s ability to work became severely impaired.
I had heard this story before; Leia and I spoke a few weeks ago, but I thought it would help my friends/fellow board members to have some context. I asked Han and Leia to tell their story; “tell us about you, about what happened, about your experience with Marian Catholic, how did you meet, etc.”. As we got to talking, their story became even more clear to me. They were the
type of people that everyone knows. They were good people. They were a young family working hard to make ends’ meet. What made them unique, however, is that they had multiple life changing curve balls hurled at them and, like you and me, they were floored when it happened all at once.
I remember when my wife was pregnant with our second daughter. My older daughter was two years old and she was a lot of fun, but boy, was she a “busy-shoes”. How would we handle another baby who might be as active as her? What if the new baby is totally different? What if we have a boy? What will that be like? I had a couple of freak-out moments (as my wife can
attest to), but ultimately, our beautiful Daughter #2 was born and we figured life out and got into a routine. The anticipatory stress, though, that comes along with a newborn baby is real and many of you reading this can probably appreciate.
Now imagine trying to figure out how to plan for a newborn baby, but then, BOOM… also finding out that you (or your spouse) was diagnosed with cancer. And to make it even more stressful, Han and Leia had a runaround with the physicians. Han didn’t officially get diagnosed until months after he initially reported something. Oh, and just for fun, let’s throw a case of gestational diabetes into the mix too.
As Han and Leia continued on with their story, I became even more convinced of a number of things:
– We were doing the right thing, by committing to help them.
– We could make a significant impact on this family.
– What we are doing with Becky’s Warriors is important work.
– Becky would be proud of what we’re doing.
Toward the end of the conversation, it came time for Life Lesson #2. Tracy took a deep breath and confidently informed Han and Leia that Becky’s Warriors wanted to help. The Becky’s Warriors board decided to grant them $10,000 to help offset some of the medical expenses that they had incurred over the past year. Oncologists, radiologists, urologists, pathologists, x-ray techs, hospitals, parking, gas back and forth to Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, child care to name a few. If you’ve dealt with cancer or had a family member fight cancer, you know how this goes. The mailbox becomes a Xerox all-in-one with bills being printed and delivered ad nauseum and the toner cartridge never seems to run out.
Becky’s Warriors wanted to lend a hand on this random Saturday morning at a random Panera in Oak Lawn. To be in the position to take a little stress off their plate made me feel so good. It brightened my day to know that we were making a profound difference to good people who could use a hand. We were becoming Love in Action, to borrow a Kairos phrase, even though
we were all virtually strangers just 45 minutes earlier. It was a powerful moment. It was cool. It was humbling. And I was grateful to be in the position to do it.
Become the Change
In the world that we live in, it’s easy to get sucked into the negative elements of day-to-day life. Politics, be it national or local, terrorism, economic issues…it can be overwhelming. When you turn on a TV, when you open your Twitter feed, when you read a newspaper, you’re constantly reminded that love and compassion seem to be in short supply and desperately needed. How
do we fix this? How can we build the world up instead of bringing it down?
The old adage goes that you should become the change you wish to see. I believe that Becky’s Warriors is an agent of that change. More love, more compassion, more gratitude. That’s why we do what we do. That’s why we golf. That’s why we go bowling. That’s why we’ll have a fun little race in a few weeks (please get yourselves registered, BTW!! – link is here: We can have fun and be an agent for love and compassion at the same time. We can make the lives of others better by helping them to focus on their fight against cancer.
As I stated at the beginning of this post, life isn’t fair. Life is hard. Life will try your patience and push you to the edge sometimes. When things get really tough, though, if we can collectively come together as helpers, we can become something bigger than ourselves. We can become conduits of empathy and we can encourage and inspire others when they need it the most.