As I am sure anyone who would be reading this knows by now, our daughter Morgan participated in the Middleton Relay for Life this year. She, along with 7 of her friends, came up with the idea to create a team all on their own and with very little aid from any of their parents, raised just over $1,800.00.
Heading into the event, which was held last night at Rotary Park in Middleton, NS, we were bursting with pride and excitedly awaiting the recognition they were to receive for being the youngest and the most successful youth team at that Relay. In fact, they were in 6th place overall for fundraising out of 72 teams. A very impressive accomplishment. We also knew that one of the girls on the team, whose hair was quite long, planned to have her ponytail cut off to be donated to a charity that makes wigs for kids with cancer. Once she got up on stage, however, talk turned to shaving her head in order to get more. Egged on by her friends and cheered by the crowd she readily agreed and before her head was halfway completed the rest of the team wanted to do the same. Unfortunately for them the only way to have enough hair to donate was in fact to shave it all off, but not one of them blinked. In the end, five out of the eight team members and two of their siblings sacrificed their locks to a very worthy cause, including our Morgan. In doing this they earned another $135 for their team and the utmost respect of all those present.
Needless to say, Steve and I are very proud of our girl - but not just for the decision she made on that stage, rash as it was. There is a certain type of mob mentality when it comes to things like this: one does it and the rest are quick to follow. It was a brave, courageous and extremely thoughtful thing to do, but it sure comes with some heavy consequences. After a long, emotional and very satisfying 12 hours, Morgan returned home (with a logo painted on her bald head just for me!) exhausted and ready to crash. We made her have a shower first and it was in there while preparing to shampoo her hair that she had a moment of panic and the tears began. At first, when she was sobbing and mumbling incoherently I panicked myself, wondering if we'd made the wrong decision allowing her to do this. But when all she complained about was the strange feeling and the lack of need for her favorite shampoo I realized she was simply over tired. So often I lose sight of the fact that she is still a child after all. We sent her off to bed and hoped for the best.
This is when the real bravery surfaced. She woke up several hours later in a fantastic mood, chatting excitedly about how in a few months time another child would have the opportunity to have a wig because of the hair collected from her and her friends. She talked about the feeling of pride she had in her friends and how good it feels to think of others. She mentioned one of the girls was concerned the boy she liked at school may not like her anymore now that her long blond hair was gone, and that she told her if the boy didn't appreciate the sacrifice she'd made than he wasn't worth her time. I stood there listening to her ramble on, watching her explore her bald head with a sense of awe and knew right then we had done well by letting her make this choice. What an incredible lesson. The fact is: it sucks to lose your hair. For any reason. But I told her she was lucky to be getting ready to sleep off a long night spent with friends and not getting ready to have chemo. She did this willingly, not because she knew her hair would eventually fall out in clumps. She is now a little closer to understanding how it feels to be in those shoes, without actually having to hear the diagnosis. Her sadness was a good thing, and although short lived, taught her once again how lucky she is to have her health, how important it is to do all we can to prevent cancer and how satisfying it can be do good for others. And as Steven said, its better for her to learn about quick decisions and their consequences from shaving her head than from something more permanent like getting a tattoo!
Later in the day I took Morgan and two of the other girls to the mall for some retail therapy. I felt they would now like some new trendy hats and bandanas to make the transition easier and to put a positive spin on the fact that despite the good they have done - they were now all bald. I watched them in their favorite store, trying on different hats and giving each other a fashion show - oblivious to the stares and tentative smiles from other customers. Each time someone stole a glance at them they returned it with a wide smile and didn't miss a beat. Instead of being embarrassed they were proud. Despite the full bags they carried, each one of them walked out of the mall with bare heads.
In my humble (and admittedly somewhat biased) opinion, I believe there are many adults who could learn from these girls. They each ran for a member of their family who had suffered from cancer and in the end they touched many more hearts than they'd meant to. They helped several unknown children, taught us all the true power of the young and showed a confidence few could match.
Well done girls.