His parents had dreamed of having a son and after three attempts their wish finally came true. Sadly before he was even born they learned that he had a rare condition commonly known as “brittle bones.” They were nonetheless undeterred by the dreary picture that the doctors painted for them. He was their child and they already loved him. They would do whatever they needed to do to care for him and show him how much they cherished him even with his physical imperfections. They named him Alec and convinced him that he should never be defeated by the challenges that his condition posed. They taught him how to be his best and to find optimism in the midst of his pain.

They sent him to the best doctors in Chicago where he found kindness and assistance from the Shriners who had worked to provide hospitals and care for children such as Alec. The boy grew to be happy and articulate and courageous even as he endured countless fractures of his fragile bones. Surgeries to mend and strengthen him became part of his routine as did learning how to maneuver his wheelchair so that he might play basketball with other youngsters with afflictions that left them unable to walk.

Along the way Alec became a spokesperson for the Shriners. His infectious smile and sincerely winning mays made him an instant hit and familiar face to millions of television viewers who stopped to listen to the precious boy who asked for help with the very worthy cause of sharing with youngsters who deal with crippling conditions, He possessed a natural charisma that was enchanting.

Alec is seventeen now and still a popular spokesman for the Shriners. He is small in stature due to his condition but his personality is gigantic. He is proud to represent the organization that has done so much for him and for his family. He admits that his life has not been easy but credits his parents for continually providing him with the motivation and love that keeps him moving forward with his life. He feels a sense of purpose in being able to bring attention to the children like him who continually struggle with their crippling illnesses. He has found multiple ways to enjoy the life he has without self pity.

Alec’s parents recently gifted him with a new car fitted out to accommodate his needs. It has a lift and hand controls that allow him to have a new sense of freedom. His voice is deep now but the same smile that made him a star as a child is ever present on his very recognizable face. He confides that he has suffered at times but he revels in the kindness that people have exhibited toward him again and again. He appreciates the gift of life that his parents gave him and the unending support that they continue to provide.

The story of Alec and his parents is uplifting and reminds us of our own blessings. It also demonstrates that the promise of life is not without challenges and suffering. How we face the pain that all humans endure is a measure of our understanding that each of us has the power inside our souls to endure even the most unthinkable. Our attitude determines how well we manage both the good and the bad events and Alec shows us that with determination and a will to find good wherever we go we indeed may find meaning and happiness in spite of difficulties that taunt us.

Depression is on the rise across the globe. Babies such as Alec are routinely aborted. Millions bury their sorrows in alcohol and drugs. We so fear pain and suffering that we attempt to run from it. When we have no other recourse we so often fill our hearts with rage, which is a very natural and human reaction that even Alec admits to having felt. The key to overcoming our inclinations to give up is to understand that while life can be overwhelming there are powerful alternatives to our sorrow. We only need keep the faith that each breath we take is a sign that we have something to give to the world even if it is just a genuine smile.

I have been blessed to personally know people who inspire me just as Alec has done. They have been beset with plagues of sorrow and pain and yet they soldier on, changing direction as needed but always surviving with determination to make the best of the hand that has been dealt them. My own mother was the consummate example of someone who might have given up but she remained one of the happiest individuals I have ever known through grave loss, debilitating illnesses and economic misfortune. The key to her happiness lay in her ability to find great joy in small things. She had an the wonder and appreciation of a child.

Take time each day to consider all the good things about the world rather than the bad. Think of the people who love you rather than those who hurt you. Be thankful for the talents that you possess and build on them. Each and every one of us is a precious and unique creation and the key to the contentment that we seek is first to cherish ourselves just as we are and then to do whatever we might to share our rejoicing with others.


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