Northern – Southern. Democrat – Republican. Black – White. Christian - Muslim. I’m pretty tired of all the talk about our differences, and the many ways that we can be segmented into groups. It’s too easy and not very productive.
Take my family for instance. Girl – Boy. Brown Eyes – Hazel Eyes. Black hair – Brown hair. Leggings – Sweat Pants. Soccer – Tennis. Instagram – Snapchat.
I am sure that I could over blow the importance of clothing choice, and drive a wedge between my kids because one wears leggings and the other sweatpants, but where would that get me? My kids are way more focused on antagonizing each other and being part of a solid and loving family unit (in that order). And, that’s the way it should be.
Unfortunately, what gets lost in all of labeling is the big picture and common purpose. In other words, what are we all here to do together?
On October 21, I celebrated my son’s twelfth birthday. Sounds pretty normal, but in my case, it is not. Simon died when he was three months old. So, my celebrations are probably different than yours. The day usually consists of going through the motions at work, followed by a quiet family dinner, and some mindless television to keep us distracted. The best part of the day is going to bed and knowing that when I wake up, the day will be behind me.
Simon shares a birthday with Cody Stephens. He would have turned 23. However, like Simon, Cody died of an undetected heart condition. Simon died of an electrical heart condition called Long QT Syndrome and Cody died of a structural heart condition called Cardiomyopathy. Another segment!
My family started Simon’s Fund. Melody and Scott Stephens started the Cody Stephens Go Big or Go Home Memorial Foundation. We met at a Parent Heart Watch Conference. It is a very diverse group of hundreds of families bound by a common purpose – preventing sudden cardiac death in the young.
We could segregate this group based on race, religion or socio-economic status. We could divide it by types of heart conditions, ages of our children when they died, or the activity that they were engaged in when they died. What would that look like . . .
Well, there would probably be no Parent Heart Watch and we would have never teamed up with the Stephens and Who We Play For to conduct a heart screening during the NCAA Final Four last year. My family would belong to some crazy group like the White Northern Philadelphia Big Ten Democrats for Electrical Heart Conditions Foundation. The Stephens would be proud members of the Southern Republican Houston SEC Structural Heart Condition Conference. Can you imagine what the URLs would look like for these groups?
Consider how this kind of tunnel vision would deprive our society. The groups in Parent Heart Watch have provided over 100,000 free youth heart screenings. They have placed thousands of automated external defibrillators (AED) in youth facilities. They have partnered with hundreds of youth related and medical associations and organizations. They have been behind the passage of legislation designed to protect students and athletes across the country. Their efforts have saved thousands of lives. In fact, you can see some of these families on a TODAY Show story that aired this week. All of this would be lost on labels, judgments and differences.
Quite simply, we are achieving our collective goals because we are reaching for them together. We are joined by the tragic loss of a child. We recognize that more can be done to protect our children. We know that with a little education, prevention and preparedness, thousands of young lives can be saved. All of those other segments just melt into the background because in the scheme of things, they don’t really matter.
I wonder if this approach could be applied to any other areas in our life . . .