The following guest post is written by Nancy Repko. It encapsulates our biggest fundraiser (Food Fight 3) –click for video-perfectly. Warning. You may need tissues.
Photos courtesy of Jamie Stanek
Video above courtesy of Laura Mikowychok
In my house, there are two types of people. There are people who prefer words, and there are people who better understand numbers. My husband Matt and my son Jonathan rely on the numbers. They are inclined to charts and visuals. They rationalize their way through life, logically and with appropriate data to support their decisions. Whether my husband is planning a vacation, or the purchase of a new car, or what to do on an open weekend, it is all best if done with a spreadsheet. My son Chris and I, on the other hand, prefer words; we read a lot, we express ourselves best through writing, and we tend to feel our way through life, going with our guts more than our heads. Words, for people like us, are like baskets, overflowing with memories, feelings, and possibilities.
Words. I was one of the many volunteers at this year’s Food Fight 3. And there were some words that night that moved and changed me. Words like STAND UP. Wearing my blue t-shirt, I stood waiting for the evening to start, hands politely behind my back, lined up along the outer wall with my fellow server-volunteers, when Christine asked a simple question of the seated guests: if you are a cancer survivor or a cancer warrior, would you please STAND UP? I don’t know what I expected. I guess in some way I hoped no one would STAND UP. But slowly, people began to rise from their seats. I saw one, then three, then five. I almost didn’t want to turn and look around the room for fear there would just be more, and I waited for it to stop…please stop. With each pushed back chair and rising guest, I breathed a silent gasp of sadness, pain, and a little bit of anger; with each one I prayed that no one else would have to STAND UP like that again.
WALLS. That was another word for the night. I was part of a wall of volunteers circling the room in our blue shirts, a WALL later described as the “WALL of blue,” a circle of care for those who had stood, and a circle protection for those who haven’t yet, but might have to someday. As we formed that WALL, we were also being called on to tear other WALLS down. Maisy Meyer sang “these WALLS that they put up to hold us back will fall down,” and I knew then that they would. They will fall. The WALLS of financial difficulty, emotional exasperation, limited research and awareness, those WALLS will fall because, there, that night, our WALL was stronger. And with tears in our eyes as Maisy sang, “there’s something in your eyes says we can beat this,” we all looked at each other and saw it, too, that this beginning will lead to an end. This is where those WALLS will start to fall, and we cried, a little bit because of the pain and suffering that cancer brings, but more because we realized that we are all a part of this, and we are going to make a difference.
This leads me to my next word: NUMBERS. No, not numbers as in math, or stats, or figures. I’ll get to that for those of you with left-heavy brains. But indulge me for a moment in saying that NUMBERS was one of my words for the night because in our NUMBERS, we have power. We all know it exists. We have all seen it. We know what NUMBERS matter most: the NUMBER of people in our dedication runs, the NUMBER of Facebook posts that send out thanks, prayers, and love, the NUMBER of tears we have collectively shed, the NUMBER of runners who respond when a teammate has a need, the NUMBER of lives we impact just by being us, being together, and doing what we believe in. Our power in NUMBERS makes things happen, without second-guessing, without apology, without a need to ask for permission. Our power lies in many things, but so much could not be accomplished without our power in NUMBERS, and that could not have been any more evident than it was at FF3. I think everyone marveled a little that we were able to pull this off. And I say “we,” even though I know my contribution to the evening was very small, because I recognize in all of us the power of each small act, each kind word, and each thoughtful deed. We are like a giant, 1000-piece puzzle, and when each small part works collectively with the others, we make beautiful things happen.
Those are just a few of my words, and I’m sure there are many others for each one of us. But I haven’t forgotten those who need the hard numbers and data to make meaning, so I’ll leave you with a spreadsheet, courtesy of my husband. For all you numbers people out there (Matt and Jon Repko), this one’s for you:
So marvel a little…in those numbers, in your collective efforts to make it all happen, and in these three final words, SUCK. IT. CANCER.