This is the story of how I tend to be the most ungrateful human being on the planet, and a young guy named Josh.
I wake up every morning, my head protected from the rain and my body protected from the cold outside because of the roof I sleep under. When I wake up, I wake up warm and rested because of the 350 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets burying me into a deep sleep each and every night. Soon after being awakened by my cellphone that conveniently doubles as an alarm, which also functions as a camera and a computer and a GPS, I walk to the bathroom on my well-functioning feet to relieve my healthy bladder.
I then use those very capable legs to walk into the kitchen to make coffee with the endless amount of running water pouring from my faucet, and my gas stove that produces fire and heat because I have enough money at the end of each month to pay the gas bill. Not to mention enough money to buy those Stumptown beans from the only place in LA that sells this near-perfect Portland coffee.
Next I usually eat breakfast with my coffee. Often gluten free pancakes or gluten free cereal because I have the luxury to be so picky with my diet.
And I get to do all of this with a woman who is my best friend and with whom I have chosen to spend the rest of my life.
But sometimes I forget…
A few days ago I met an incredible young man named Josh. Josh is 19 and runs a website called Optimistic Wellness where he interviews inspirational people via Skype, sharing their stories with the world. I was recently and very undeservingly contacted by Josh, and asked to participate in one of these aforementioned interviews. Flattered and always excited about meeting new people, I agreed.
I was immediately enraptured by Josh’s charm and infectious personality. He’s easy to talk to, unafraid of questions, and, most importantly, unafraid of answers.
So 26 minutes after Josh interviewed me about Make It MAD, traveling across the country, meeting my wife on the road, and writing such dark fiction in We Can’t Go Home Again, I decided to interview him. Josh had a tube running out of his nose, snaking its way around his face and down his shirt.
“It’s mad sexy, isn’t it?” Josh said when I asked him about it.
Josh was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when he was 15.
I had no idea what Crohn’s disease was. I tend to shy away from researching these topics given my highly sensitive hypochondriac tendencies. You sneeze, I have the flu. Talk about a brain tumor, my head starts to hurt.
For those of you who, just like me, don’t know a thing about Crohn’s disease, here’s the skinny: it’s an inflammatory bowel disease that infects and debilitates the large intestine and colon causing a brilliant symphony of stomach pain, vomiting, and bleeding.
I asked Josh just how painful it was.
“I was throwing up a lot of blood and losing a lot of blood through my colon. It hurt a little bit, yeah.”
Josh spent 140 days in the hospital when he was diagnosed. He dropped out of high school, had his colon completely removed, and part of his intestines are now outside his body. As a result, he now has to use an Ostomy bag. (You can look up how that works on your own time.)
“It’s cool. I swallowed this pill with a camera in it. Basically, it made an .avi of my digestive track.”
140 days in the hospital at the age of 15 and learning I will never be a regular teenager, I’d have an extremely difficult time finding anything to be cool.
“God’s plan was different for me,” Josh said. “I guess I just had other lessons to learn.”
Josh is a different breed of human with his faith and optimism. The kind of human I think God intended us all to be no matter our circumstance.
“When I was 15, I had a conversation with God. I said, ‘I will not lose my faith in you.’ Then lots of tough shit happened after that.”
I know a story just like this. Mine, as well as many others.
Josh was warned that he’d never again live a normal life. He can come down with infections far more easily than the rest of us. He’s fragile. And like most people forced into his situation at such a young age, he ought to be lying in bed depressed and hating himself as well as God.
Instead, Josh does ballet. He stretches every morning for 10 minutes, and can do a full split. He can touch his toes with ease. He taught himself calculus, attends college online, and will be physically going back to school soon.
I’m a college dropout.
I can’t do calculus.
I can’t touch my toes, and I can’t do a split.
Josh is forced to use an Ostomy bag to go to the bathroom, and I can’t do half the things he is capable of.
“Now I get mad when the Sixers lose a basketball game,” Josh laughed. “You just forget, you know?”
Every single morning I forget that I have just woken up with a roof over my head. It often slips my mind that I am warm and comfortable because of my 350 thread count egyptian cotton sheets. When I thank God, I don’t thank Him for my ability to urinate without pain nor for my legs, which allow me to stand and walk to the bathroom on my own. I don’t think about the money I use to buy coffee, and almost every morning I leave the faucet running while I brush my teeth.
Today, join me in taking a look at what you truly have to be grateful for in your life. I know your car might be in the shop, your grades might be suffering, and you might not know where rent is coming from on the 1st, but just consider that today you might have more to be grateful for than you recognize.
And if my friend Josh’s story along with his optimism have inspired you the same way he inspires me, then please consider giving Josh some love down here in the comment section. He’ll be reading this later today. Or stop by his website and check out his interviews. You can watch the interview he did with me right here.
Copyright © February 2012 || Make It MAD