Brittany and Brigid: A Lesson in Charity

When did the word “charity” become a negative word?  People say things like, “I don’t want to be a charity case.”  I get the sentiment.  We don’t want pity.  We don’t want to be seen as victims.  The reality is the word charity means something completely different.

Charity is “a giving heart, a generous way of viewing others and caring for their needs.  Unless we are charitable, no matter how much excellence we acquire, it is without purpose.” (The Virtues Project™)  Charity is about what we give, not what we get.  It is about the nature of our heart and how we help others and ourselves without judgment.  This week on What’s Your Story?  I was fortunate enough to learn the lesson of what charity looks like through the eyes of an amazing 15 year-old, Brittany Zebrasky.

Brittany has been fighting her brain cancer since she was 5 years old!  She has had over 42 surgeries and countless hospital stays.  She has every reason to see herself as a victim; instead, she is the most loving, vivacious teenager I have ever met.  She sits on the youth board for USSA  This organization grants “dream wishes” to critically ill and disabled children, as well as disabled vets.  These wishes are generally related to some sort of outdoor adventure.

The organization was founded by Brigid O’Donoghue, who herself was diagnosed as permanently disabled after undergoing brain surgery at 20 years old.  In the ultimate show of excellence and charity, she turned her struggles into the beautiful gift of the USSA.  After granting Brittany a wish many years ago, the two became instant friends and now speak throughout the country on behalf of the organization.  Brittany has spoken to the Wisconsin Congress and was instrumental in getting Governor Doyle to sign legislation that allows 10 year-olds to hunt with a mentor.  She also has spoken to her school about the importance of showing compassion and kindness to each other, “because we never know what someone else is going through.”

I asked Brittany how she could do the speaking she does, and at such a young age…she simply said, “When I speak, God is standing next to me with his hand on my shoulders.”  I am incredibly humbled by her graciousness, and hope that I can walk the path she has lit so brightly.

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