A Profile in Courage

It was the worse news you could imagine to start your day.

John Challis,  student from Freedom High school who graduated just last month, has terminal cancer. This morning, we learned just how long his life will be. Doctors have given him just one week to live.

Just writing those words causes my heart to ache and my emotions to stir. While he’s far from being the world’s first terminal cancer patient, he is someone we have all gotten to know over the past few weeks though the stories that have been told about him the media …. and now, to see a young man full of life and hope suddenly being told he has a week to live is the cruelest thing I can imagine. However, I think that John will handle this last est bit of devastation with the kind of maturity and bravery rarely seen by people his age … or any age.

I have never met John in person, but I have watched him through the stories we have done on him in the past few weeks. His inspirational graduation message, his tour of duty in the Pirates clubhouse serving as manager for the day and his meeting with his baseball hero, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees. At each stop, he has taken in the moment like he’s smelling a rose that has newly blossomed. While taking in each moment, he has left something at each stop: a message of hope and life.

We all like to think if our days were numbered we would live our life as bravely and as dignified as John Challis has. In reality, we do not know how we would handle such a fate until it happens. John Challis has handled it in a way that makes him more than a role model and more than an inspiration. He is, in my mind, a hero and that is the ultimate compliment I can pay him.

I do not know how he will spend his last week and frankly, it’s nobody’s business but his. However, if his actions over the last few months is any indication, he will live it to the fullest and enjoy every moment and every breath.

Our tribute to him should be to live our lives in the same deliberate way.

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