Brenden Foster is like any other eleven-year-old; he loves sports, video games, and having fun with his friends. By outward appearances, he resembles a jovial boy enjoying the best years of his life. Except for one thing. Brenden’s dying.
Three years earlier, doctors diagnosed him with leukemia and today’s he’s unable to get out of bed. Furthermore, he has to deal with the knowledge that in less than two weeks—his body will give out.
Brenden takes the news in stride and says to a reporter, “I’ll be gone in a week or so.”
The reporter, fighting back tears asks, “What were the best things in life?”
Brenden replies, “Just having one.”
In the forty-five years I’ve spent on earth, I’ve never heard such words, especially from a person so young and handed an unwarranted death sentence.
Okay, I can hear the question you might want to ask, “Why did you share a story about a child dying of leukemia in your blog about having a great time?”
It’s a good question and has a straightforward answer.
Brenden Foster’s dying wish wasn’t to meet a celebrity, or receive an exotic toy. He wanted to organize a food drive for the homeless.
Please drop every pin you have.
Empty the entire box!
Brenden said, “They’re probably starving, so give them a chance. Food and water.”
Given the advanced stage of his disease, Brenden couldn’t participate. Therefore, volunteers from the Emerald City Light Bike organization performed the benevolent wish, distributing food to dozens of homeless people in the streets of Seattle, Washington.
But it didn’t stop there.
Imitation took over en masse. Brenden’s plea ignited mirror neurons in people’s minds across the United States. From Washington, to Ohio, to Pennsylvania, to Florida, and everywhere in between, people organized food drives for the homeless. Gracefully, Brenden brought nourishment to thousands, but enlivened the hearts of—millions.
Like a stone tossed in a quiescent pond, Brenden’s final act of linking to others—promoting the spirit of giving—is without question, a bar too high for most to cross. Certainly for me.
But let’s try.
When asked what made him most sad, Brenden said, “When someone gives up.” Brenden never wavered, even in his dying state he kept—giving and connecting.
As his life drew to a close, surrounded by his beloved family, he whispered once more, “I had a great time.”
Sadly, on November 21st, 2008, Brenden passed away; leaving a legacy that’s difficult to match. Why? Because some opt for selfish motives rather than linking with the intent to help others. Every day, stories of people destroying lives, companies, communities, the planet, and uprooting unity, litters the news.
Let’s turn the tide and carry the torch that Brenden lit so brightly and ensure our lives, personally and professionally, echo his sentiments:
“We’re having a great time.”
In closing, remember, we can all link our minds to inherit greater richness. Philosopher Donald Schön, sums it up best. He writes (paraphrased): “Practitioners of people are constantly seeking to give encouragement, empathy, and bestow a feeling of worth upon every life they touch.”
The revealed truth is that we can all become better practitioners, and like Brenden Foster, leave consummate ripple effects in our wake—long after life’s curtain draws to a close.