I think I figured out the meaning of life, but let me at least tell you how I got there.
Thursday night we had our victory celebration at the YMCA. My Operation Orange wrapped up along with all the other fundraising efforts of the 180 volunteers at the Y. Our goal between those of us who were on Team Camp GRACE was to raise $18,000. We had no idea how much we had raised until the last minute. They handed us the total near the end of the event.
It was over $32,000!!
I am so grateful to everyone who donated that I don’t know what to say. A lot of awesome, autistic kids are going to have a great time at camp next year and have opportunities they otherwise would not have had.
Maybe one thanks I can offer is to share a revelation I had on the way home from the celebration Thursday night. It seems so simple; perhaps it’s only revelatory to me. But it was the first time I’d ever seen it this clearly.
At the kick-off event for the fundraiser some weeks ago, they told the story of a girl at one of the YMCA camps. This was a camp where many of the kids come from circumstances where they don’t often get to participate in fun, community activities, do things they dream about, or feel valued and special. One day they had a talent show. They asked this particular young lady what she wanted to do. She said, I want to walk like a model.
So they set up a runaway, surprised her with red carpet and high-energy music, and she walked up and down that carpet like she was queen of the universe. And in that moment, that’s who she transformed into. People stomped, clapped, and cheered for her. You could see it in the picture; she felt cheered for and she felt special.
To me the best surprise at the victory party was not really that we blew away our fundraising goal, as fantastic as that was. It was that they invited that young lady to be there to help announce the final fundraising total for the entire Y ($507,000!!).
They had put down red carpet in the gym where we were having our celebration. They invited her to take her encore for having inspired us over these past few weeks. Music thundered, and we stomped, clapped, and cheered for her. Her joyful spirit filled the room. She nearly blew the roof off the building.
She was everyone we work for, every child we value, every young person we celebrate.
And on the way home, I ran that scene back through my mind several times – the look on her face, the pride in her walk, every part of her held high. And then I got it. I thought, This is the purpose of life.
To cheer for people and help them feel special.
It may not be the only purpose in life, but if it were, I think that would be quite enough. The best of what we seek to do in life – supporting, advocacy, teaching, promoting justice, empathy, learning, organizing, volunteering, writing, blogging, speaking, consoling, exhorting, building community, everything – arises naturally from it.
It’s one of the most basic things we all want. It’s a fundamental part of our humanity. Often all we need is for someone to cheer us on and tell us and show us that we are special. From there, each of us can do wonders.
So let’s go practice this. Check everything we do against this idea. Go seek ways to live this out.
Thank you to everyone who supported Camp GRACE! Because of you, we’ll be cheering for a lot of amazing kids next year who are special beyond words.