Growing up, my cousins Danay and Yinet were like my sisters. We grew up and lived in the same house until we were all 18. So, when they had kids, I called them my nieces and nephews and they call me uncle. One of my nephews is Joel. Joel is one of the nicest and kindest people I know. He’s not only mature for his age, but he’s also genius-level smart. He’s been taking high school classes for a while and he’s only 13. He got perfect scores in the FCAT, was accepted in the National Junior Honor Society and the list goes on. On top of that, Joel was also involved in football and track.
I say he was involved because that all changed last year. Last October, Joel started feeling sick while at school. He vomited and then blacked out. Hours later, when his grandfather picked him up from school, Joel could barely walk and was slurring his words. After he was rushed to the hospital, a scan revealed that Joel had had a stroke.
His right arm and right leg were completely paralyzed and he couldn’t speak. Can you imagine being an active 12-year-old and all of a sudden be paralyzed and not be able to speak? Since he couldn’t talk, the doctors told him to write what he wanted to say if he needed something, but Joel is right handed. It was frustrating at first, maddening even, to not be able to talk to others.
When I heard about it, I broke down crying. I believed in my heart that Joel would make a full recovery, but I pictured myself in his place; confused and afraid and I couldn’t handle it. He was perfectly healthy and then all of a sudden he had a stroke.
We had been talking a lot about God before this happened, so I reminded him about our conversations and told him that although he was going through something horrible, God was still there and He would see him through.
Before the stroke, Joel had planned to visit me here in Topeka. He was really excited and my wife and I, with help from his mom, had bought his plane tickets that summer. He was going to visit us in December and spend Christmas break over here. But of course, October came and his dreams were shattered.
It’s hard to explain how much Joel wanted to visit. We had made so many plans. Late-nights watching the Harry Potter movies, watching Heat games together, playing basketball and exploring Topeka and Kansas City, were just some of the ideas we had. Also, he was very excited for the possibility of snow, since that’s one thing Florida never gets.
But after the stroke, he wasn’t able to fly. It was hard enough learning to talk and write again. The airline postponed the tickets until February, but he still couldn’t travel then so we lost the money. It was devastating for Joel and for me.
A year later, Joel is still recovering from the stroke. He’s not 100 percent yet, but he is a LOT better. And his dream of visiting and spending time with me and my wife and kids is still alive. However, due to some unforeseen medical emergencies, we can’t afford to pay the ticket and neither can his mom. His dad is out of the picture.
So, here’s where you come in.
I started a Go Fund Me campaign to crowdfund Joel’s trip to Topeka. I hope to get the campaign funded no later than November 2nd. I know of some people who think, especially guys, “I would never ask anyone for money.”
But here’s the thing, I care more about Joel’s happiness than about my pride. Men grow up with these weird social constructs where asking for help is seen as weakness, where being a pacifist is seen as “soft.” And even more bewildering is that some of these guys I know are Christian. And was there ever a better example of a more humble, more peaceful, and most generous man than Jesus?
You see, it’s a fact that most men don’t go to the doctor because they subconsciously see that as a sign of weakness. So, guys just “tough it out,” until in many cases it’s too late to do anything about it.
I know of a man who shot another one over a parking space. The guy could have simply walked away or called a tow truck, but his ego was injured so he got a gun and killed the other guy. For what? A bruised ego?
And it’s this kind of mentality that says, “don’t ask for money.”
Well, I don’t care. I waited this late until October to make this campaign because I thought my wife and I could cover the cost, but we can’t. But like I said, I’d rather make Joel’s dream come true than worry about my ego or what others may think.
Even if all you can give is a dollar, I would really appreciate it. Wouldn’t you love to be part of something like this? Wouldn’t you love to be part of a young man’s understanding of the concept of grace? Because that’s what this is. When you give to help Joel, you are showing him what grace looks like in action.
He’s still young, but he’s learning about Jesus and about love.
He’s been through a lot in a year. From learning to speak, write and walk again, to bullies making fun of him for dropping his lunch in the cafeteria. Joel needs a break. He deserves one and I’m going to do all I can to help him get here. Will you help me, too?
Please, share, like, but most of all, give. Five, ten dollars, whatever the amount, it all adds up.
Here’s the link again. Joel’s Dream Trip to Topeka.
Show me what you can do, Internet!