Finding clarity in life’s most difficult moments

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  •  2 min

St. Jude patient Nick London, who started rapping during his treatment for cancer, performs on stage.

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“We learned there are always reasons to be thankful. Sometimes you just have to search a little harder. In the middle of life’s valleys, that’s not a natural inclination. But in reality, it’s the valleys that help bring clarity to our lives. And we learned that people have an amazing capacity for kindness.”   – Craig, a St. Jude patient dad

That’s a powerful, relevant sentiment from a father whose young son faced a cancer diagnosis several years ago and I’ve been measuring it against my own life, my own experiences in the last few days. Honestly, I’m trying to take it to heart amid the health and economic strains of COVID-19.

I could use this space to lament the challenges we face at ALSAC and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital because of the economic impact of the virus. It’s hard to know the exact financial fallout just yet but it’s clear we, like nearly every non-profit, are being profoundly affected by lost financial support.  

That topic dominates my day, like every CEO I speak with, in non-profit or for-profit organizations. But at the same time, I’ve been profoundly affected, too, and encouraged beyond words by this global virtual hug we’re witnessing amid the darkness.

And isn’t it true, like Craig suggests, it’s bringing clarity to our lives? A global pandemic has a way of changing your priorities. It inspires us to help those in need.

I find myself much more people-centered and empathetic. I spend more time with my thoughts. I’m more grateful for the incredible life I have lived. For my friends and professional relationships. And when the load of living and working through the pandemic grows a little too heavy – and that’s happening to most of us I suspect – my thoughts are reshaped by extraordinary examples of what Craig calls people’s “capacity for kindness.’’

Reshaped by the selfless nurse who left her young family to spend weeks volunteering on the frontline in a New York City ER.

Or in our hometown of Memphis, by the church choir that showed up on the front lawn of the city’s first COVID-19 victim to sing a moving hymn – at safe distance – to his widow.

At St. Jude, we’ve been blessed by this phenomenon since our doors opened in 1962. We’re powered by a broad, selfless community of people who give their hard earned dollars to help save kids they’ll never know from places they’ll never visit.

Of course I’m worried about the impact of COVID-19 on our mission. But loyal and generous donors have always carried us through difficult times. It’s so reassuring, for example, that in the midst of the biggest public health and economic challenge of our lives, people are still becoming first-time donors. Or to get a note like this from a couple that increased its donation:

"We humbly request that you do not provide recognition or any gifts. The blessing of being able to make this donation is more than sufficient."

That kind of selflessness leads me to see the world through Craig’s eyes again:

“From the grace and mercy of others, we took hope and strength. It helped get us through.”

More than ever, we’re grateful for your continued kindness and generosity.


Richard C. Shadyac Jr. is President and CEO of American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.


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