Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Big Bravery from the Smallest Slugger

Nash Norris was diagnosed with cancer when he was only 10 months old.  The doctors simply told his parents to take him home and love him, that there was nothing else they could do.  

This week, a precious little boy ran onto the field of an Atlanta Braves game and threw out the first pitch.  That little boy, full of seven years of life and still slugging the medical odds every day is Nash Norris.

Today, Nash is in the first grade and says he’s smarter than anybody in the class, sometimes even his teacher!  He loves school and even plays on a baseball team. Even on his weakest days, Nash loves to solve puzzles.  Once he masters puzzles, he will mix two puzzles together to challenge himself and now even puts the puzzles together upside down!

This little boy has endured dark times that I can’t imagine facing as a teenager or adult, let alone as a child.  He has undergone chemo and radiation treatments for most of his life, and has experienced tough days with a feeding tube and port.  Because the cancer is in his upper spine, he is only able to fully use one arm and leg.  Yet nothing is too insurmountable or too discouraging for Nash and he lives every day to the fullest, accepting every challenge.  He often says, “Just because you are sick doesn’t mean you can’t do a lot!”.  He not only defies odds, but he does it with joy, bravery and leadership that he may not even realize he possesses.
Nash has a wonderful family that supports and loves him, including sister Karleigh, who is ten years old.  Recently, he received some pretty amazing support from the Atlanta Braves pro baseball team.

Thanks to the MVP Foundation, little Nash and his dad were recently flown to Milwaukee for the Braves-Brewers game where Nash threw out the first pitch.  Nash is a huge Atlanta Braves fan, so this was a magical dream come true for him.  I recently watched a video of Nash running across the field and throwing the pitch and as I watched that little boy run, I felt all of my worries, stress and discouragement from today immediately fade away.

So many things about Nash’s story put life into a whole new perspective.  I am suddenly reminded that even in the darkest of circumstances, there is still gleaming, brilliant light to be found.  The burdens that I thought were heavy suddenly become blessings. I am thankful for the English paper I have to write and the piano scales I have to practice because I have two fully working arms to complete them with.  My early morning ballet class becomes a blessing because I have two legs that allow me to do tondues and  pirouettes.  My cold isn’t much of a bother anymore, because I know that in a week or so, I’ll be back to normal again. 

We all go through uncertain times where we may feel that we don’t have a whole lot to be thankful for.  Yet everyday, there are countless little things we have to be grateful for, if we can step back and recognize them.  If we can’t think of anything, we can start by being thankful that we have eyes to read these words, a mind to process and question what we read and a heart to feel admiration and love for precious Nash.

I am sure that all around us, there are brave little warriors hitting tough pitches every day, just like Nash.  We never know what battles people are facing.  Maybe if we start to pay attention more, we will notice the courage and indefatigable joy of the everyday heroes around us.  And we will be thankful – thankful for miracles both big and small and thankful that God is faithful, even when we don’t see it.     

I learned of this beautiful story from Nash’s generous and faith-filled grandmother, Judi Felton, owner of Fancy Fanny’s in Chattanooga, Tennessee, who is a remarkably generous national wardrobe sponsor for Distinguished Young Women.   When I asked Judi what I could do to repay her for the beautiful gowns she gave me to wear during my year as Distinguished Young Woman of America, she simply asked for prayers for her precious Nash.   

Nash, you have my prayers, admiration and love!  Thank you for being such a role model of courage, what it means to treasure life and how we should all face the curve balls in our lives.

Christina Maxwell is a freshman at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan majoring in musical theater. Originally from Asheville, North Carolina,  Christina was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of North Carolina for 2012 and the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2012.

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