This Morning I Learned What’s Really Important

what's really importantThere are elements of today’s post that have been brewing for quite some time…others bitch slapped me between the hours of 7:30-8:30am. My alarm went off at 6:15am after I’d been lying awake since 5am thinking about one thing or another. I got up, went through my morning routine, ruminated on what’s been eating at me as of late and drove to the Denver Country Club for a breakfast hosted by the Morgan Adams Foundation.

If you know me (hell, even if you don’t), you know I’m not the country club type. Joan Slaughter, founder of the foundation, had asked me to be her guest. That’s why I was going. (If you’re new to RedheadWriting, check out my post on ARTMA – my first introduction to Joan’s foundation.) I walked up to the club with blue toenails and a fucsia dress. One look at the fellow attendees …oh shit. Why the hell was I here? JOAN! Right! I was here for Joan. I didn’t measure-up to the Brooks Brothers suits and tweed-tastic clad ladies. I found solace in HootSuite on my iPhone before the breakfast began.

And then for the next hour, I was overcome with an understanding of what’s really important.

I was given the gift of sitting in a room amongst families whose lives have been changed, for better and for worse, by pediatric cancer. They’re right here in Denver. They may even be your neighbors, your children’s classmates. I heard a man whose toddler son was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor talk with a straight face about the $2 million tab for his son’s treatment protocol after “experts” at Johns Hopkins told him to put his son on terminal care, as there was “nothing to do.”

What’s really important?

Hope. Passion. Ambition.

It’s not that your plans for last night didn’t work out to your liking.

It’s not that you’re running late to a meeting.

It sure as hell isn’t that you stained your favorite blouse.

It’s hearing a woman’s voice crack as she talks about putting her 5-year-old daughter’s hair up in a ponytail during her chemotherapy treatment because she thought that…somehow…the ponytail would keep her hair together. Help it not fall out.

It’s hearing her introduce a young lady in the room who was receiving treatment at the same time her daughter was – and one’s here today. One’s not.

It’s listening ravenously as you hear three pediatric oncologists talk about being told they were crazy for wanting to commit their lives to a field where kids die. Die. But how they wouldn’t be satisfied until they, as medical professionals, did better and upped the odds for kids who are told there’s nothing left to do.

That’s what matters.

Hope. Passion. Ambition.

I literally get PISSED when I hear about a diocese in Pennsylvania donating $1.8 million for Haitian relief and then I hear about a national debt sitting at $12 trillion. We piss and moan about taxes and health care legislation and we keep sending our money overseas. We drive by the homeless people on the corner who need a dollar yet we’ll text $10 to The Red Cross to help people way beyond our borders. Yeah, I see the compassion in there. Somewhere. But why do we look so far beyond our own backyards for causes worth our $1 or $1.8 million? I simply don’t understand.

Not only is life entirely too short to deal with crap that doesn’t make your life better, it’s much shorter for some than others. Something to think about as we determine what’s important and what’s not. Strange…I’ve suddenly moved quite a few things to the “not important” list.

It’s been a sappy couple weeks for The Redhead. But today, I learned what’s really important. Maybe you’ll stop by the Morgan Adams Foundation site and see something important there as well. And a special thanks to Joan for inviting me to breakfast in the sea of tweed today. She didn’t see me drop my glasses in the back during the video because I was wiping the tears from my eyes. I’ve never really heard her talk about her family’s journey with Morgan until today. I’m very glad I heard it – from her.

If you’re inclined, follow the Morgan Adams Foundation on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

PS: This post isn’t to guilt you into making a donation or taking an interest in this particular nonprofit. I know there are many worthwhile causes out there in need of support. This morning, however, I was lucky enough to know that the dollars I donated to a cause were going somewhere and for a certain purpose and that those dollars made a difference. And I think it’s damn lucky that other families who find themselves faced with pediatric cancer have a foundation like Morgan Adams dedicated to funding research that matters.

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Laurel
Laurel

Ok. I just gave to one of my favorite charities, Mercy Corps, which works all over the world (but mostly internationally). So feel free to get pissed at me.

SRasmussen
SRasmussen

I had the fortune in the last year to work with Joan and MAF through MGA - we helped them with earned media, media planning and messaging. Throughout the process, all here that worked on the project were truly touched by their mission. What those kids and their parents go through - it's heartbreaking, and the work that Joan and MAF do is amazing. On the one hand, it's hard to process what it's all about until you've actually seen or experienced it. On the other, it's inspiring to see that they are making a difference - but so much more is needed.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Les - welcome and I'm glad you're enjoying the content. I think you add something that was missing here: how it's not just dollars, but HANDS and TIME that people can donate. And yes, there are many wonderful organizations WORLDWIDE that deserve attention. But what can we build in our own backyards? As I have friends in Nashville, I know they're personally grateful for those hands and the time they've given.

Les
Les

Erika, first, let me say that I'm a relative newcomer to your blog and I really love where you're coming from and how you express yourself. Second, as you can see from my twitter avatar, I'm from the Nashville area where, as I am sure you are aware, we recently had what the Army Corps of Engineers is classifying as a a 500 year flood that devastated 1000s of homes and businesses in Tennessee. What you may not have heard is that a local organization, Hands On Nashville (HON.org) has coordinated relief efforts which include logging well over 44000 hours of volunteer labor in the first week after the flooding started to subside. This equates to over five years of volunteer time in roughly seven days! This does not even begin to count the hours donated thru many of the loocal churches, the countless thousands of dollars donated to local charitires and local offices of national charities. My point? Well, while I agree that it's angering how we can give to far off charities when folks need help at home, I have seen first hand that there are some in this country that put America first when it matters close at hand. And, I also would suggest that there are a crap ton of organizations, situations, foundations, etc. that all need a helping hand both locally and globally. It can be difficult to know where your donation will be best used at that moment. Lastly, I would suggest that sometimes, donating your time and physical presence is better than simply sending a check or texting 'donate' on your cellphone.

The Redhead
The Redhead

First - sorry for not having whitelisted you after your last comment. All taken care of!Otherwise - for me, at least, when I get pissed about something, it incites me to action. If more people got pissed about things and put that energy into motion to DO SOMETHING (anything, really, instead of saying they're merely pissed and sit idly by), I think we'd all be better off. Unfortunately, when most people get pissed, they choose to bitch instead of act.

Laurel
Laurel

I don't disagree with funding for research and treatment. In fact I donate to those causes significantly myself.I just don't think it's an us vs. them thing. I would guess that people who contribute to causes that help people outside the country are more likely to also contribute to causes that help people in this country (this is what else Catholic Social Services does in Philadelphia: http://www.catholicsocialservicesphilly.org/).Also, the national debt seems to me to be kind of a red herring when it comes to considering how to allocate charitable donations. It's like saying I shouldn't contribute anything to charity because I have a mortgage. Like it or not (and sometimes I think it is something to worry about), our economy -- businesses and individuals, runs on debt, and the government is no exception.Basically, I don't think it helps to be PISSED when people support causes like earthquake relief in Haiti. I think the world needs more generosity, not less.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Steph - thanks for stopping by. That moment shot me right through the heart as well. It conjured up a thought: volunteer friends. What if the foundation had a program for school-aged kids that made their rounds, to hospitals and to homes, of kids who were sick? That way, these kids knew they never had to be alone and had something to look forward to instead of dread...

Steph Urban
Steph Urban

Thank you for writing this. I was there too. The moment that hit me the hardest was the young mother who survived brain cancer and who spoke about the pain of not having a single friend be there for her when she was diagnosed in 6th grade. Her pain felt very raw and still present after well more than a decade has passed. It reminded me that the kids in Morgan Adams' class with Sharon Messinger at Cory Elementary School all wore scarves so you couldn't tell which kid had cancer. They rallied around her, befriended her, loved her always.I told this story today to a mom with a thirteen year old. She plans to tell her daughter so that maybe she will understand how much compassion can stick with a kid. Maybe then isolation will not have to.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Laurel-First off, glad you're here (in every way). Secondly, perhaps your experience with pediatric cancer was different from the kids who are diagnosed with agressive forms who rely heavily on funding for research, funding like this foundation provides. Maybe not. The most important thing to *me* yesterday was I was moved to reprioritize. And it still pisses me off that we complain about the state of a nation we won't financially help. Or rather, that many complain about and that many won't help. We tend to think that problems deserving our attention can't be so close to home. That's where I call bullshit.As I said-the post wasn't to change anyone's mind. It's my opinion and those who disagree are always welcome here :)

Laurel
Laurel

I don't know if I agree. I'm one of those pediatric cancer patients (just barely, I was 17). And I think I need(ed) your dollar a lot less than some of the billions of people outside our country that weren't lucky enough to be born in a country like the US where polio has been eradicated, for just one example.

The Redhead
The Redhead

And again, Michael - you said it better than I ever could.

Leon Noone
Leon Noone

G'Day Erika,You " spoke a book." Thanks a lotLeon

hollywoodcopy
hollywoodcopy

Great post (as always). Here's an interesting fact about acting globally:"Because aid agencies are forced to buy from U.S. companies at inflated prices, historically America has effectively taken back 70% of the aid it donated."*Something to think about when one's thinking globally.Donate locally and your dollar goes a hell of a lot further to actually helping people.*http://motherjones.com/politics/2005/12/who-gives-t

The Redhead
The Redhead

You bring up a great point, Andy - giving FEELS GOOD.

The Redhead
The Redhead

DO. SOMETHING. Yes, please. Well said, Tyler. Thanks for letting me know about the FB connect issue. I'll ping Disqus.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Honestly? I'd love to see what the diocese contributes to their local community. I know compassion knows no boundaries, but the money is HERE, in our economy, and here we sit bitching about the STATE of the economy...while sending our money beyond our borders. It's baffling. And good on ya for THE MS Society, another organization dedicated to research to improve lives :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Tons of pointless shit wandering around in our lives, no? And yes - how can we forget Mark? Be sure to check out www.invisiblepeople.tv, all - a VERY worthwhile click of your mouse.

Andrea Anthony
Andrea Anthony

Yeah, I think we're all more capable of compassion and we need compassion reality checks every so often to put it all in perspective. Mine is in New Orleans. I go every year and build houses and remember how good I have it while giving of my time. But I think we can afford to give at home and overseas. For the cost of coffee for a week, we could donate to Haiti AND to a homeless shelter. Or to some other worthy cause. I give as much as I can, even though I'm 29 and by all right don't make much money. But I'm still 90 times more wealthy than most of the people on the planet. And if you can't give money, give time. Everyone has a little time to give. We are the stingiest nation I know. We love to judge those who come on hard times instead of taking a moment to find empathy. Think how much happier we'd all be if we gave more?

Steve
Steve

Good post. I am definitely a fan of your writing. And it is good to stop and think about what is really important. I agree with most of what you have to say however I don't see the harm in donating overseas as well as at home. I donated to Haiti as well as New Orleans - yes those packaged donations make it easy. I also am active in my local MS Society, my mother is the main driving force for that. There are also a few other local causes that I support. I think there is room to support those at home as well as abroad. We are very lucky to be Americans and we can share. I am pretty sure the Pennsylvania diocese does quite a bit for the local community.

ShellyKramer
ShellyKramer

Made me cry, too, Red. I'm with you. I've also been making it a point, after being inspired by Mark Horvath when we were at SOBCon, to start buying socks. You know what I mean. There are so many in need, right here in our own neighborhoods, that worrying about the pointless SHIT that consumes us on a daily basis is really ridiculous. I hug my kids daily and remind myself how blessed we are. And then, I look around and try to figure out who I can help today.Thanks for the inspiration.

Mariano Franco
Mariano Franco

These are the kinds of posts I can imagine are the easiest to write because they're ALL HEART -- EMOTION -- LOVE.When charged with writing "content" sometimes it's easy to forget the heart, emotion and love. Or maybe you don't forget, but it takes a back seat to "Meaty Strategies & Tactics." And in some instances, people don't allow themselves to let emotion and content make sweet love to each other and give birth to something beautiful... as you've done here.Yep, I woke up this morning somewhat concerned about the $500+ dollars I owe to Verizon and peeved about this blemish on my face that isn't quite kissable but then you come knocking and remind me that I don't have any problems.I have challenges I can overcome. And I should be grateful for these challenges because the only people who don't have 'em, are dead.Thank you Erika for reminding me of this. I am certain the prose you've written here will have a positive effect which will have a ripple effect that will extend much further than any check you wrote to the foundation. And maybe the effect won't be that you've raised a jillion dollars but that you've helped at least one person see life in a different frame and that new frame allows that person to focus on what they can be grateful for, which is what I believe, is a key trait of being successful.As I've heard it said, "Any man that knows more about his liabilities than his assets will NEVER be a winner!"Once again Erika thanks for the bitch slap upside my head that reminds me of this.Talk soon, Mariano Franco

The Redhead
The Redhead

What other color would I wear to breakfast? :) And yeah - some things just don't come out in the wash, do they?

The Redhead
The Redhead

"They say charity begins at home. Perhaps we need to extend the definition of home beyond the TV in the living room to the local community." - Thanks for that, Steve...

happyhourmary
happyhourmary

My husband and I work an event every year (or so) that supports St. Jude's. (Hooked on a Cure) and I have to agree that there is something good for the soul when you are around people who have REAL problems. I always come out so grateful at the end and with better perspective. Hey, I can get the red wine out of my blouse, but cancer....Glad you wore fucsia! That's real, too!

Steve Campbell
Steve Campbell

It's interesting how easy it is to donate to packaged causes we see on TV. The media is extremely good helping us to understand tragedy as it happens both in our country and abroad. Seeing that pain and suffering can't help but inspire an urge to help, or to donate.But, as you point out there is a great deal of suffering in all of our communities. It's just not packaged as well and to understand it you often need to meet the people who are suffering. That's not nearly as easy as watching television and texting donations.Every community has worthwhile causes and people needing help. They say charity begins at home. Perhaps we need to extend the definition of home beyond the TV in the living room to the local community.Thanks a for a great post.

Tyler Adams
Tyler Adams

This is a wonderful post, Erika. As much as I love your more "businessy" posts, these are my favorite. And this reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite shows: "You're not going to change the world. So do something, as much of it, and as often as you can." I won't argue that giving to someone in your backyard is more important to donating to Haiti or elsewhere around the world. There are so many people in need of so many different things. I think what's important is just getting in the game. Raise awareness, donate money, join a group, volunteer...just do something, anything. I think seeing these types of things firsthand changes one in a very real way. But there's nothing quite like seeing someone hopeful in the face of a situation that isn't--has a way of putting what's important into perspective. p.s. For some reason your Facebook Connect hasn't been working for me the last couple of days.