Sports Spectrum Weekly

Airing It Out: Life lived out

Imagine if we were encouraged every day.

Or taken care of every day.

Or loved, celebrated, or even supported in our endeavors— every day. Imagine.

How would that make you feel?

Would you feel encouraged?

Would you feel taken care of?

Would you feel loved, celebrated or supported in your endeavors?

Of course you would.

Some of you might say you don’t need that much care every day. That you only need it once a week or once in a while. Why? Because you’re strong. Self-assured. Confident.

Or at least that’s what you say or project to others.

But I wonder how you would hold up if you found out you had an incurable disease and only had a year or even months to live?

Probably not too well.

Someone who recently needed all of those acts of kindness, and also received them with open arms, was Mount St. Joseph University freshman Lauren Hill.

You see, Hill has a rare and incurable and inoperable form of brain cancer and she has months or even days to live.

Incurable. Inoperable.

The medical community hasn’t come up with a way to help people who have this type of cancer. It’s called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a tumor that wraps itself around part of the brainstem on the lower back of the brain near the top of the spinal cord and squeezes off vital functions needed to live. DIPG, as it’s known, normally happens around the ages of 5 to 7, affecting only 300 children per year in North America and Europe.

Fewer than 10 percent of children with this cancer survive even two years after being diagnosed, according to dipgregistry.org, an organization committed to finding a cure for this type of cancer.

Lauren, who was 18 when she was diagnosed, likely won’t see the first day of 2015.

She first noticed something wasn’t right during her senior year of high school after committing to play basketball at Mount St. Joseph’s, a Division III school in Cincinnati.

She ran slower than normal, fell more often and struggled to do simple things like catch a ball.

She took chemotherapy and radiation, but it didn’t work.

She still had a big smile, though, and it was noticeable to everyone even through her struggles.

And she had encouragement, people who could take care of her, love her and support her endeavors—every day.

So the girl known for her loving spirit and loyalty decided she would spend her few months of life focusing on playing in one college basketball game (because she wanted to honor her commitment to the school), and bringing awareness to a disease that most of us have never even heard of before she gained national attention for it.

“One January night I was kind of having a meltdown,” she said in a video on Cincinnati.com about going through her emotions earlier this year. “I was praying, and I asked God if I could do anything. I didn’t know what He sent me here for. ‘Whatever You sent me here for, I’m ready to do.’”

That’s humbling, selfless, and sacrificial, all attributes Christ would want us to show.

Someone who needs everything to just make it through the day is thinking of how she can bless others and honor a commitment to a school that doesn’t give athletic scholarships? Mount St. Joseph’s is an NCAA Division III institution, which doesn’t offer athletes scholarships–kids play because they want to play with no thought of receiving anything other than a uniform and a chance to play in college.

Sure, she wanted to fulfill her goal of playing college basketball, but she also opened up her life to strangers through local and national media while she was dying and struggling each day to just get out of bed because she was so fatigued. Why? Because she had hope that some attention would be given to a ravaging disease that steals the hopes and dreams of moms and dads who, in 99.9 percent of cases, won’t see their kids make it past childhood.

She knew the attention being brought to DIPG wouldn’t help her—and she was fine with that. She knew her days were numbered.

But she was thinking of others, when she could have been thinking about herself and, honestly, not too many people (if any) would argue with her if she would have done that.

That game she wanted to play? She did, on Nov. 2. She scored the first two points on a set play, a layup with her left hand, her weakest. But, by then, everything was weak. Her step was slow. Her run had become a jog, and her motor skills were badly deteriorating.

She went out of the game, which had been moved up two weeks after receiving special permission by the NCAA because the season hadn’t officially started. School officials had requested the special waiver because they thought she might not make it two more weeks. She briefly came back in with less than 30 seconds left in the game to score one more basket. Her body had been taxed only by less than a minute of play.

But her smile, that didn’t diminish or weaken.

It was big, wide and full of life, especially as she met college basketball coaching legend Pat Summit and WNBA star Tamika Catchings at halftime when she received the Pat Summit Most Courageous Award in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 10,000.

People had packed Xavier University’s arena, which had been donated for this one game by Xavier, to see Lauren play in likely her only college basketball game.

Lauren’s story reminded me of Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

We could save a lot of heartache if we obeyed this one teaching.

As Christians, we talk about God and Jesus a lot, and sometimes we get to see it lived out.

I think living it out is better.

Talk can be mimicked and can hide what’s inside.

But living out your life can only reveal what’s inside.

Because when you encourage others, take care of them, love, celebrate their accomplishments, and support them, you’re living out Christ’s teachings.

This column was published in Sports Spectrum’s Fall 2014 DigiMag #2 (Vol. 28, No. 4 in print). Log in HERE to view the issue or subscribe HERE to receive 12 issues of Sports Spectrum a year.