*Disclaimer for regular readers: This blog post departs from its usual farcical tone and is somewhat serious. Readers suffering from serious-induced shock are asked to immediately link to other posts for comic relief.
Yesterday, I got an awesome t-shirt. It says, “Luke’s Local Artist.” I felt like a fraud putting it on, because anybody within a mile of me can spot that I’m not an artist. The students I work with would have no problem sharing the depth of my visual-spatial impairments watching me attempt a basic stick figure sketch during a lesson. “Here Ms. Troi,” says my student with fine motor impairments who can’t yet use scissors to cut paper as he takes the pencil from me and draws an admittedly superior stick figure to my own, “This is how you draw a person.” So you might be wondering why I would don apparel emblazoned with the word “Artist.”
I donned this shirt last night because I was volunteering for an event called Luke’s Local Artists. This event, inspired by a ten-year old boy named Luke who lost his battle with cancer and actualized by his chemo pal* Ryan Foote, one of the creators of 2600 Strange Ave** (and creator of my awesome t-shirt), brought artists from the Portland area to the Disjecta event space and invited Portlanders to share in an evening of food, drinks, art and music to benefit three organizations who help support children with cancer: Children’s Cancer Association, Children’s Healing Art Project (CHAP), and Providence Cancer Research Center. 100% of the entrance fee ($20/person at the door, $15/person in advance) and the sale from drinks went toward these organizations.
When I offered to volunteer at the event, I didn’t know who Luke was, and when I left the event, I felt sad I’d never get the chance. From stories shared by those who knew him and a letter written in his own words, it was clear that In his three-year battle with cancer, Luke was a steadfast beacon of hope. The kind of hope that can be depleted for much less than the battle he fought. The kind of hope we forget to tap into when we’re tapped out by fear and loss.
People have sometimes asked me why I enjoy volunteering for organizations that matter to me, like the Children’s Cancer Association or American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). And I’ll often respond with the flippancy characteristic of the blog posts you’ve come to know (and love?), like the fun or the free t-shirts (my neon green oversized AFSP t-shirt is perfect for first dates, because nothing says “I’m fun!” like neon green and the topic of suicide). But if I were to give an honest answer, it would be, “Because I’m alive, so I can.” I wake up every single morning with the gift of life, which is really the gift of opportunity: opportunity to do more and become better. Luke’s story reminded me that the gift of life is fleeting, and if I embrace this life and catch its curve balls (That’s a metaphor. I’m as bad at catching baseballs as I am at sketching the aforementioned stick figures.) with half the courage and hope that Luke did, I will consider my time here a job well done.
*A chemo pal is an adult matched with a child undergoing chemotherapy, one of the many awesome programs through the Children’s Cancer Association. To learn more about volunteering with this organization, please go here.
**A percentage of t-shirt sales go toward select charities. Please see their website for details.