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A Shriners Story of Hope

Throughout my life, I have seen people demonstrate great acts of resilience. Sometimes it was shown by people that I anticipated would be full of hope and possessed the ability to bounce back. Other times, I was surprised by the strength shown by the person facing enormous challenges.

I once had the opportunity to meet Kechi Okwuchi. Kechi was a finalist on the TV show America’s Got Talent. At the age of 16, she was on a plane that crashed and was one of only two survivors. Her entire body was burned, and Kechi had received treatment at a Shriners Hospital for Children in Texas following the plane crash.

It was at a gathering of Shriners that I met her. Her seemingly shy demeanor was not what you might expect of such a strong fighter and public entertainer. Her story was incredibly inspiring. I wondered how often she might have wanted to give up and yet had enough courage to continue.

I have visited Shriners Hospitals and seen the children going through a variety of treatments. No matter what injury or affliction the child is being treated, each patient is incredibly resilient. Hope coupled with expertise is the foundation for the health care received at these facilities. This constant trait is evident in the patients and staff alike.

For those who saw Kechi Okwuchi’s story and performance on television, it was impossible not to see the incredible amount of mental strength it took for her to be where she was.

If you’ve ever visited a Shriners Hospital for Children, you know that the characteristics of hope and resiliency are not reserved only for someone who has become a celebrity. Each day, there are examples of this degree of determination that would be impossible to believe if not witnessed first-hand.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

One event sticks in my mind and demonstrates hope and resilience probably more than anything I have ever experienced. While visiting a hospital in Minneapolis, two groups of Shriner’s musicians performed for the staff and patients. A young girl walked up to one of our drummers and explained she would like to be a drummer too. She had a prosthetic arm and leg. What was an apparent disability to us was a non-issue to her. Our drummer set up a drum for her to play and instructed her on what to do. As a percussionist knows, you were not Buddy Rich on day one. This child was no different. However, she adapted and repeatedly tried to get the rhythm being taught. In the short time spent with this child, it became apparent that the determination with which she learned some fundamental drumming skills is how she faced the tremendous challenges in her life. She practiced hope and resilience so regularly, any other approach was unthinkable.

I’m a weekend warrior when it comes to playing my instrument. While I have been paid for blowing my horn on rare occasions, no compensation will ever match the payment I received that day in the form of a little girl’s smile and the lesson she gave me.

January 2022

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