In the past few months, I have had to take the “What color are you?” personality test three times. I am always so shocked at the people who get orange — the risk-takers. For me, everything has to be specially planned and thought out. I cannot really just do anything on the fly. I don’t think you will ever catch me skydiving or riding a super-fast roller coaster for that matter. Up until a little bit ago, I would barely do anything that hadn’t been put in my planner at least three days in advance.
Then I learned a lesson from Ellie.* Ellie was born with Hurler’s Syndrome and had a bone marrow transplant when she was nine months old. She has had more surgeries than I can count on two hands already, and she is only five. But she doesn’t let anything slow her down. She loves to go to the park and slide down the tallest slide. We have had some fun times playing “house” with her sister and the baby dolls and relaxing to watch a movie. Ellie also has quite a sweet tooth and always seems to request ice cream when I am there. If it isn’t ice cream — it’s Cheetos. She may just be my favorite person.
I think the most important lesson Ellie has taught me, though, is that every day is a new adventure. Every day holds new possibilities. You can’t let anything hold you back from that. Last December, she had a double hip replacement and had a full body cast covering both legs. With the cast on she didn’t want to sit around and let life pass by. We played Play-doh, read books and did all kinds of fun things. And as soon as she got her cast off, she immediately began to work hard to get back on her feet so she could run and play again.
One night at a youth group meeting, we were analyzing the song “I Lived” by OneRepublic. In doing so, I had realized that I had only really ever done one impulsive thing — ask a friend to prom. Ellie’s parents were leading the discussion that evening and told their story again which I so loved hearing, but with a new emphasis. The importance of living in the moment and embracing the beauty of each and every day. They don’t know how many days Ellie has, and for that matter, I don’t know how many days I have in this world. After that night, I decided I needed to change my outlook on life.
Now that didn’t mean that I got rid of my agenda or stopped planning events. I still don’t like super-fast roller coasters. But, I made the decision that whether or not anyone was joining me, I would be taking a mission trip down to the Dominican Republic. I also have gone on spontaneous road trips with my roommates. We had destinations, but vague plans, just to go, explore and enjoy.
Maybe living in the moment sometimes means trying the weird food at lunch, maybe it means skydiving, but whatever it means to you, try something different today. Dream big. Dare to be different. See what Ellie can teach you.
*Name changed to respect privacy.