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A 10-year-old gave me a reality check
December 15, 2010 - Scott Muska
I can't recall a day when I haven't complained about something. Probably because a day doesn't go by when I don't.
Even when nobody's around, I'll file expletive-ridden complaints to myself about all kinds of trivial things, and sometimes I do so out loud (I think I even complain about my habit of talking to myself). It's always about really stupid stuff, too; stuff that isn't really a big deal, and now I feel like an idiot for ever complaining about anything.
I also feel kind of like an idiot for being so self-absorbed and tuned out to the important things in life that it took meeting and learning about a 10-year-old kid to get me to re-evaluate my attitude. This lil' dude definitely made me check myself, though I don't think he knows it, since we only probably exchanged about 50 words (his Mom says he's not much of a talker).
His name's Isaiah Barnes. He was diagnosed with leukemia on Thanksgiving Day, only a few days after his 10th birthday on Nov. 16. He started chemotherapy right after. He's in fourth grade, but for now he has to stay home from school, and his teacher, Julie Hatch, comes over on afternoons to tutor him. It's easier to keep him from catching illnesses that way. I wrote an article about him (I'll link to it when it comes out tomorrow) and some of the stuff his teachers and classmates are doing to help raise some money for the traveling costs to and from Pittsburgh -- where he gets his treatments at Childrens Hospital -- and other family expenses.
Do you know what his mom told me? His biggest complaint is that he wants to go back to school. When I was his age, my existence was pretty close to carefree, and my biggest complaint was GOING to school. Isaiah found out on his 10th Thanksgiving on this earth that he was going to have to deal with something that trumps any trial I've ever faced in my entire life. On my 23rd Thanksgiving on this earth, I complained about eating too much, which was obviously a self-inflicted problem and also a luxury I should've been thankful for having in the first place. He doesn't even weigh 100 pounds, and he's doing chemo every week. One time, I got my tonsils removed, and you would probably be impressed with the amount of complaining I did despite not having my full talking abilities. The kid has shown me that I'm kind of a wimp without even knowing or trying.
Isaiah just wants to go back to school to learn and be with his friends, and he has leukemia. There are perfectly healthy people who are dropping out of school simply because they're too lazy. Maybe they should change the way they look at things. Maybe a lot of us should. I know I could benefit from it.
The way this kid keeps keeping on is inspiring, and it really makes you reconsider what you want to open your mouth to complain to somebody else about. It makes me want to do a little bit better with what I have, that's for sure, and it also makes me hope I can be brave and deal if something even remotely comparable to this happens to me (and he's only 10!). He's getting chemo every week and keeping up with his studies at the same time. I have no comparison to that. My setbacks no longer seem like they're even worthy of the term. The least I can do is walk around being positive and smiling. Even if I'm smiling like an idiot, it's better than complaining like one because I stubbed my toe on the bathroom door again in the middle of the night.
Doctors hope he can get back to school to start his fifth grade year next fall, even though they anticipate his treatments will take somewhere in the area of three-and-a-half years. After that, they're confident he'll be in full remission. I really hope he is, because if this kid's 100 percent healthy, he'll be even more of a force to be reckoned with than he must be now. Somebody that young who faces that kind of adversity has my admiration forever. He's a champ, for sure, and nothing less.
The last time I was home to visit my family, I saw a new sign my Mom had hung up in the living room. It said: "Whatever you are, be a good one." I told her I liked the saying. Isaiah is a kid, and must be one heck of a good and tough kid. It makes me want to be a good person, and a little bit of a tougher person. At least outwardly.
I guess the saying on that sign applies to pretty much everything, but it shouldn't apply if you're a complainer.
If you want to help Isaiah and some others in need, you can show some spirit toward the end of the holiday season by hitting up Central Bloodbank's bone marrow screening and replenishment blood drive on Tuesday, Dec. 28. Isaiah has had some blood transfusions during his treatment, and his Mom said it'd be nice to be able to give some of that back. If you become a bone marrow donor, too, you might end up helping him or somebody else someday.
It's at Bethany Lutheran Church, 200 Third Ave., from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. You can schedule an appointment at www.centralbloodbank.org by using the sponsor code ZRTN0762, or by calling the church office at 814-944-7560.
If you're not from around Blair County, but would like to sign up to become a potential bone marrow donor, check out www.marrow.org. And if you'd like to donate blood, go out and do it. I'm not going to insult your intelligence by telling you where you can go and do that (and if you don't know, just use Google).