Smiles Never Atrophy

February 10, 2012
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A sea of white and red t-shirts, buzzing of conversation and positive energy surrounded me. Elders rolled by carrying a weak but meaningful and lightening smile upon their faces. Each person was pumped and ready to try to make an impact for their beloved family, friends, or just to help.
This was my first year attending an ALS walk in Tempe, AZ. I didn’t understand how walking could do anything. It seemed like a waste of time. How could a walk aid these people? Bewildered by that thought, I wandered around. I came across an “In Memory” sign with countless photos of joyful looking people following under it. I couldn’t help but to tune into a conversation only inches away.
“How are you feeling this morning, Marge?”
“I’m great! I finally got my new wheelchair!”
Marge demonstrated to the lady how the wheel chair was automatic. It had a joystick which required minimal movement of her hands to steer the chair. Her legs were braced from knee to ankle and her arms were thin as bone, shaking whenever she attempted to move them. She refused to show anything but a smile on her face even though it was obvious she was having difficulty.
Once the walk began, eyes twinkled, laughs echoed, and people walked with a skip to their step. Whether the route went uphill, downhill, through sand or rocks, each person refused to give up or trudge. All this energy became contagious and was born within me.
It wasn’t completely about the donations they received, or the walk itself. It was about those with ALS to enjoy their life while they still had it. They knew everything about death and could hear it’s whispers, but they didn’t let it pull them down. To be surrounded by others with a kind heart and give them hope that a cure will be discovered to save future victims from the same pain they had to experience. They all had their hearts set on it, and it’s all they desired.
Since this walk, I realized that it doesn’t matter if your external body is robust enough to go on, people are always there to help, and the real strength comes from within. Support from those around you makes all the difference. I have continued walking to defeat ALS for about 5 years and counting. Each time being more uplifting than the last.

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