The Outdoor Dreams Foundation takes sick kids fishing and hunting. The adventures take place all year, but in May, there’s a fishing tournament and cook out. This year I manned the weigh-in station.
Fishing phenom Hank Parker volunteers as one of the celebrity captains. It’s easy to see why he has a top-rated fishing show. People are drawn to him like a fish to the perfect lure. Parker is impressive for many reasons, but this year a father of one of the very sick children stole the show.
He shared stories about his family’s experiences with Outdoor Dreams. He told of a time when they were about to pull in the rods and go in. They decided to give it five more minutes, and that’s when they caught “the big one.” Same thing happened when they were hunting. They were about to call it a day when a bear came out of a tree and gave his son the adventure of a lifetime.
The daddy with the sick boy delivered more than lighthearted tales that day. He offered a message of hope. If ever there was a group who needed encouragement, it was this crowd. He challenged them to imagine the things that might happen if we didn’t give up. What if we stuck with a friendship, a relationship, a dream just a little longer?
I whispered to one of the event coordinators and asked if the man’s son was doing better. I hoped he was cured or in remission.
“No,” he said, “they have called in hospice.”
The cookout was at Lake Hartwell, about two hours from Columbia. I thought about this father and his stories the whole way home. How could a man who knows he is about to lose his son stand up and inspire others?
I don’t know the answer, but here’s what I’m learning. Our job is not to ask why or why me. We cannot control the things that happen to us. All we can control is how we react. We have to play the cards we are dealt. And it’s best if we play those cards with hope in our hearts.
After my day at the lake, I was tired and sunburned. I was about to start whining to my daughter, and I stopped myself. What would those families give to have my problems? I hugged my beautiful, healthy daughter and adjusted my attitude.
It’s easy to be positive when you’re on top of the mountain. The trick is maintaining the good attitude in the dark valleys.
That hot day in May I saw parents pushing children in wheelchairs, parents fooling with feeding tubes, parents who surely know this summer may be their child’s last. Those parents should inspire us to do better, and they should be a good reminder not to let one complaint pass our lips. Those families are not giving up. They are not pulling in the lines too quickly. They are not leaving the woods too soon. They are playing the cards they are dealt, and they are doing their best to do it with a hopeful heart.
If that daddy of the sick boy can do it, I want to try my best to do the same.
(Tammy Davis is a Lee County native, Columbia resident, and a contributing columnist to the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C., and Lee County Observer, Bishopville, S.C. Her new book is “Chin-Up Buttercup -- A Collection of Essays and Devotions on the Power of Faith, Perseverance and a Positive Attitude.” Visit her website at www.tammydavisstories.com. Email her, including for an autographed copy, at email@example.com.)