An Unexpected Inspiration
A long-time friend of mine, Cheryl, lost her daughter earlier this month to a rare, aggressive, auto-immune disease. Her daughter, Keaira, had just turned twenty a month before she passed, and Cheryl spent not only her daughter’s birthday but also Mother’s Day at the hospital watching her daughter slip in and out of consciousness. HLH sucks.
The funeral was Tuesday, and I drove over an hour to be there. When I arrived, the parking lot of the church was packed and I had to park two blocks away. I walked into the church and was lucky to find a seat.
For two hours, I sat in that service and listened to prayers and songs. It seemed like almost everybody in the church wanted to have some kind of involvement in the program. But it didn’t seem like it was coming from a place of ego. It felt genuine, like it was coming from a place of love and respect.
About halfway into the service, people from the congregation were invited to come to the front and say a few words about their relationship with this young lady. In the interest of time, only seven people were allowed to speak. Their words were what you would expect at a funeral service, about what kind of person Keaira was, how much she would be missed, and offering condolences to her family.
After the seven members of the congregation had spoken, Keaira’s parents came forward to speak. First her father spoke about the last communication he had with his daughter that came by way of a text message, and exhorted everyone present to take time away from their phones and focus on actually spending time with the people they loved before it was too late. His comments were met with applause.
Finally, Keaira’s mother stepped forward.
There really wasn’t much for her to say. Even if by some stretch of the imagination there was someone there who had never met “Kee” after hearing all of the things that were said about her they would have a pretty accurate description.
But there was something more to say.
I listened as Cheryl told the congregation a story about a particular day that happened a few years ago when her daughter was in high school.
Keaira went to Saint Bernard High School in Playa Del Rey, just outside of Los Angeles. Even though it was a private school located away from the city, many of the students lived in areas where being poor was a way of life.
Cheryl told the story of the day that her daughter shared her lunch with not one, not two, but with five other children who did not have anything to eat.
Now, understand, Keaira was not a large child. Quite the contrary, she was actually small due to the medical issues she struggled with all of her life. But there was a heart beating inside that tiny frame that was as big as the moon, and as hungry as I’m sure she was, she couldn’t sit by idly while there were others around her who were in need.
The part that makes the story even more astounding is that Keaira didn’t have a huge lunch that day. According to her mother, all she had was a Cup of Noodles. But still, even with such a meager meal, she was still willing to share what she had.
Needless to say, I was floored by this story.
How many times in our lives have we come across people in need, but did nothing to help them? How many times have we walked past a person who was hungry and didn’t even try to give them something to eat?
My heart aches when I remember the times I personally passed by a person in need, justifying that I had five children to feed or that I had bills to pay or that I worked entirely too hard for my money to simply give it away.
Because I am then confronted with the image of this child sharing a single Cup of Noodles with five other people simply because they were hungry. It nearly brings me to tears when I think about it.
But there is good news.
We can consciously make a decision today to change, to be more aware of the people around us, more observant of those who may be suffering, who we have the power to help.
When we are called to help a person, we are never asked to do more than we are able. But we are called to do something. If we continue to ignore the plight of others, if we care more about what is happening on our social media platforms than we do about our fellow man, we are heading for a dark age indeed.
We would all benefit from learning to empathize with the people around us, to be able to sense when someone is going through tough times and giving them a helping hand, whether it’s through a couple of dollars, being open and available to talk to them, or simply offering a friendly smile.
The truth is, life is a roller coaster full of ups and downs, and we have no idea what’s coming around the corner. We never know when it will be our turn to go down a spiral. We never know when it will be us who has to endure a terrible situation, face down a horrible sickness, or wonder if we will be able to feed ourselves or our loved ones.
If life is good for you right now, great! Enjoy it, but in the midst of your enjoyment, you would do well to not forget about those of us who are less fortunate.
If you are going through a challenge, I hope and pray that there is someone close by who has a spirit of kindness and empathy, like that of Little Miss Keaira.
Rest in peace, Kee. You truly were an angel. You will be missed.