Jane (who goes by “Nightbirde”) was Simon Cowell’s golden buzzer last night on America’s Got Talent.
“Last time I checked, I had some cancer in my lungs, spine, and my liver,” she told judges Cowell, Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara, and Howie Mandel. “It’s important that everyone knows I’m so much more than the bad things that happened to me.
“I have a two percent chance of survival, but two percent is not zero percent. Two percent is something, and I wish people knew how amazing it is.”
I will never forget those words. The reason I am writing this blog is because I have learned a huge lesson from Jane, and I want to share it with others.
Adversity is all around us. Some people are more fortunate than others and experience less grief, fear, or anger. Others seem to get more than their share of challenges, trauma, or flat-out disaster. Personal illness, the health issues of family members, loss of income, death of loved ones, and more are life situations that can occur at unpredictable times.
What do we do when adversity comes? How do we react? Do we lose perspective and become caught in a negative spiral? Do we forget everything that is good in our lives and only see doom and gloom? Do we give up our hopes and dreams? Please mull this over: “The unfortunate” are not strangers. They are us! Most of us will at some time be in a position of “less than.”
I am not downplaying the reality of terminal illness or any other severe health complication. Pain, disability, and death are real; and as a result, we experience loss, sadness, hopelessness, and despair. Reading Jane’s words takes us to a different place. We see a woman’s bright, smiling face, achieving her dream to sing on America’s Got Talent while knowing her days are limited. We see someone who is feeling almost lucky that she has a 2% chance of survival, not 0%.
We don’t see someone who is thinking her type of cancer has a 98% fatality rate. You might call it looking at the glass half full and not half empty, but I see it as more than such a simple statement. I see her as someone who cherishes life at all costs and is grateful for however much is left. I see someone who is going to be cheerful, happy, and fortunate that she has her 2%.
What can we learn from this?
It is this: Time is not guaranteed for anyone. But what we do with what we have is all our choice. Jane’s destiny is carved out. What isn’t predetermined is how she lives until it is over. It’s sort of like the Serenity Prayer. It is a blessing to know what you can or cannot control. In her case, she decided to choose happiness for the time she has. Of course, this is not an easy task. We are programmed in many ways to see only the negative aspect of such a fate as Jane’s.
We all get 1440 minutes a day. When we wake up, we have a choice about how to spend it. Think about it for a minute. What good comes out of seeing the darkness and hopelessness of the inevitable? Does it make the inevitable go away? Hardly. What it does is compromise the minutes left to feel enjoyment, love, and happiness.
I will never forget the 2% Jane immortalized, and I hope she changed the way others see the world.
In Jane’s most uplifting words, “You can’t wait until life stops being hard to be happy”.