Tag Archives: Terry Fox

Transform then transmit

“If the pain of your story is not transformed, it will be transmitted.” —Richard Rohr

In my Friday post I wrote about re-creation at Easter, and I mentioned several painful stories that had been transformed into wonderful light.

Could those stories have ended differently?

Of course. Sandrine Craig’s family could have wallowed in the pain, nurturing it until it devoured their lives and radiated to everyone around them. Terry Fox could have stayed at home in a bout of self-pity that poisoned his relationships with others. Christopher Reeve could have steeped himself in bitter resentment.

But they didn’t.

They transformed their pain, so that what they transmitted was not dark bitterness, but beautiful light.

Re-creating yourself at Easter

“Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” —George Bernard Shaw

A Facebook friend posted this quote on his site last week. (Thanks Garin!) I “liked” it, and I made note of it as something worth thinking about. Especially at Easter. The cycle of loss and rebirth touches every life, and we think about it especially at Easter, with its dominant theme of loss and rebirth (however you choose to interpret it).

For me, Easter is a time to remember that out of every heartbreaking tragedy comes light.

Or more precisely, in a time of heartbreaking tragedy, it’s important to look for the light, maybe even create it.

Ten years ago, 11-year-old Sandrine Craig was killed in a car accident. What a heartbreaking tragedy. But her family chose to donate her organs to help others, and they went on to establish Sandrine’s Gift, an organ and tissue donation awareness campaign.

What a wonderful light.

At age 18, Terry Fox was diagnosed with bone cancer. He died four years later at the age of 22. What a heartbreaking tragedy. As a result of his Marathon of Hope, however, almost $500 million has been raised for cancer research and countless lives have been saved or prolonged.

What a wonderful light.

In early 1995, Christopher Reeve landed head first after a fall off his horse. The fall shattered his C1-C2 vertebrae leaving him paralyzed from the neck down and unable to breathe. During subsequent surgery, doctors had to reattach his head to his spine. What a heartbreaking tragedy. Since then, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation has dedicated itself to treating and curing spinal cord injuries.

What a wonderful light.

For many people, the resurrection story can’t be a literal one. For me, it’s about creating light in the darkness, and changing things in a way that doesn’t allow the world to go back to the way things were before.

All is one

In Friday’s post , SchoolBOX president Tom Affleck told us that the most rewarding aspect of his work has been witnessing creation—seeing his work begin as a mustard seed and then grow and evolve.

He refers to the biblical quote from the books of Luke or Matthew (take your pick) that say that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. This is yet another occasion for us to free ourselves from the prison of literalist thinking and embrace the offerings of metaphor: the potential for a compassionate world lies within tiny seeds that don’t look like they could ever amount to much.

We see this in power-of-one stories: Tom’s mustard seed came to him the moment he realized that he had changed a girl’s life; Terry Fox sowed his mustard seed when he decided to run across Canada; Ryan Hreljac was six years old when he planted the seeds for the Ryan’s Well Foundation.

Compassion and perseverance

All of these stories have two things in common: compassion and perseverance. These people began their journeys for selfless reasons, only to help others. These people persevered on their journeys through trying times and inclement weather. How easy would it have been for any of them to stop? Who would have blamed them?

But, they didn’t. They persevered, transforming the power of one into the power of many. When compassion lies at the core, a story ripples out to touch more and more people, who then tell the story to ripple out and touch more and more people.

Cancer, lack of clean water in Africa, and illiteracy in Central America—these are big issues. Who would think that one person could make a difference? Terry, Ryan and Tom, that’s who. 

Each of us can plant a mustard seed.

When we do, at the beginning, we will feel all alone. At the beginning, the magnitude of the problem we’re trying to overcome will seem overwhelming. We will think, “What difference can one person make?”

One person is a mustard seed containing the potential for a compassionate world. If you plant your seed and persevere, your story will ripple out and touch more and more people, and you won’t be alone for long.

The spirit, er, story of Terry Fox gives me hope

I missed the Terry Fox experience the first time around.

In March, 1980, before Terry started running, I left for a six-month student exchange in México. I returned to Canada on September 5, 1980, four days after he stopped running. When I settled into my seat on my Air Canada return flight from Mexico City, the flight attendant handed me a complimentary copy of the Toronto Sun. The front page carried a picture of Terry Fox. I read his name and thought:

“Who’s Terry Fox?”

Since I had no first-hand experience with Terry, I didn’t immediately develop admiration for him. Then, in 2005 I had to opportunity to write a script for the Royal Canadian Mint about the commemorative Terry Fox dollar coin. To write the script I had to research Terry, and the more I read, the more impressed I became.

To raise money for cancer research he ran, with a prosthetic leg, the equivalent of a marathon every day for 143 consecutive days.  We admire this inhuman physical feat, but more than that, we admire his selflessness and his steely mental and emotional strength.

He completed 5,373 kilometres before cancer appeared in his lungs. Terry’s body stopped running that day, but his spirit is still moving, carrying messages of inspiration and hope.

I choose to use the word “story” to describe the something more in our world to make the concept accessible and agreeable to everyone. Those who balk at “soul” or “spirit” can climb on board with a story. Terry Fox is a perfect illustration of this idea. Terry Fox did not complete his Marathon of Hope in a physical sense—the undeniable science of cancer in his lungs ended his quest—but his story runs a marathon of hope every day still.

Terry Fox’s body is no longer with us, but his story sure is.

In my office I have a copy of Maxine Trottier’s book, Terry Fox: A Story of Hope propped up on display. When little things get me down, it takes one glance at the picture of Terry on the cover to slam my petty little concerns back into perspective and to give me the will to keep plugging. If he does that for me, I imagine we can multiply that many times over for people facing cancer treatments.

Across the country, in communities and in schools, Terry Fox fundraising activities fill up the weekends of September. The runs and other special events pay tribute to the remarkable mental, physical and emotional feat of Terry Fox.Almost $500 million has been raised worldwide for cancer research through the Terry Fox Foundation. Countless lives have been saved or prolonged.

Whether you choose to use the word “story” or “spirit,” Terry Fox has a shining, powerful one.