We Are All the Stuff of Legends

We Are All the Stuff of Legends
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“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts …”

William Shakespeare

Some months back, I opined on the topic of leaving behind a legacy. Contrary to the often-offered advice “dance like nobody’s watching,” my truncated position was to behave like everyone is. One never knows the number and makeup of the onlookers or the performance’s impact until the scene is concluded.

Last week, some affirmation of my thinking unexpectedly presented itself when I was introduced to a new song called “Legacy.” The lyrics and music were written by 17-year-old singer-songwriter Kellie-Anne Poirier. Poirier drew inspiration from her interactions with family friend John Py as he deals with life with ALS.

The result is a stirring ballad of survival, perseverance, and triumph in the face of one of life’s most daunting tribulations. The accompanying music video portrays a man stricken with ALS, as he and his family rally to the challenge. It has received more than 20,000 views in 10 months and has enjoyed positive press from Music Existence, The Music.reviews, and Hollywood Digest.

“John is just a normal guy,” Poirier said in an interview with the ALS Association. During a separate Q&A with Talent In Borders, Poirier stated, I would like more people to understand the illness and all that it entails, and if this music video and song can do that, then my goal will have been achieved.

It’s the case of an average Joe unknowingly being the impetus for creative expression that moves tens of thousands of people. Shakespeare himself would be impressed. According to an article by Skope, it’s “a once-in-a-lifetime partnership, a legacy like no other.

After taking in the song, the bookTuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom came to mind. Morrie Schwartz was Albom’s former college professor. After years of no contact, Albom learned that Schwartz was dying from ALS. The book chronicled their post-reunion series of visits, until Schwartz’s death. During their get-togethers, the pair would discuss, in teacher-student fashion, various topics important to life and living. 

Memorable among the wisdom imparted were multiple lessons, several of which I will attempt to combine. Relationships survive us. Whatever love — or lack thereof — we bring to the table lives on. Prioritize our pursuits with that in mind, living life as if it’s our last day. 

The book was published after Schwartz’s passing. It ultimately sold more than 14 million copies and was later made into a movie. Schwartz’s sagacious nuggets unwittingly created a legacy benefitting countless people.

Although separated by two generations, the respective tales of Py and Schwartz have similarities. The most obvious are ALS and their starring roles, performed to an audience of one, which morphed into cameo parts in front of a massive throng. Both Poirier and Albom merely gave the script handed to them the best rendering possible.

Paul Tripp wrote that “God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things in the lives of others.” Helen Keller craved interaction. James Meredith desired an education. Anne Frank wanted to write a diary. César Chávez sought fair labor conditions. Harriet Tubman objected to humans owning other humans. Jack Twyman endeavored to aid a severely damaged human in need. Each had rather ordinary goals, but left extraordinary imprints.

The Bible teems with such sagas. Improbable characters such as a tax collector and a prostitute left indelible marks. In his book, “Great Characters of the Bible,” Alan Stringfellow documents 52 such folks whose résumés would hardly predict multi-millennium legacies.

None of the aforementioned people were chasing notoriety or influence. Their impact was simply the consequence of them leading their lives, as best as possible, while attentive and appreciative spectators looked on. Guided by their conscience, their example leads others.

People watch, and people talk, likely more than we imagine. What they witness firsthand may be imparted to others secondhand. And their observation, after distillation, may fractionally become an element in their own stage show, put on in front of a unique social network. While the ripple effect of my behavior lacks the explosive power of a song or a bestselling book, it still is modestly tangible. It’s up to me to make it potentially additive. 

ALS, in thespian terms, could rightfully be characterized as an over-budget, underperforming, beyond-belief tragedy. Yet, despite that dismal trailer, it’s a production that will capture some sort of viewership. 

Extraordinary humanity can be contagious. It doesn’t require a trumpet or bombast to announce it. It just needs one person, then another borrowing from the first, then multiple folks following suit, to make a positive difference. We all can be in that plot.

***

Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.

Rick is a 62-year-old man who was diagnosed with ALS in January 2007. Currently a resident of Southwest Florida, he has lived in four other metropolitan areas, but greater Chicagoland will always be “home.” Rick is a degreed engineer, spending his career in the medical device industry. He’s had the good fortune of extensive travel throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean. He writes, in part, to be an ALS advocate. Additionally, it is his hope that his output will help dispel the myth that technical folk and digestible prose aren’t mutually exclusive.
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Rick is a 62-year-old man who was diagnosed with ALS in January 2007. Currently a resident of Southwest Florida, he has lived in four other metropolitan areas, but greater Chicagoland will always be “home.” Rick is a degreed engineer, spending his career in the medical device industry. He’s had the good fortune of extensive travel throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean. He writes, in part, to be an ALS advocate. Additionally, it is his hope that his output will help dispel the myth that technical folk and digestible prose aren’t mutually exclusive.
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4 comments

  1. Dave Reckonin says:

    ‘Paul Tripp wrote that “God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things in the lives of others.’ ”

    Paul has every right to believe that if he wishes. It is often seen amongst such writers, who, having strong personal religious beliefs, seek to attribute the doing of ‘extraordinary things’ solely to deity. However that stance is unsound for two reasons. Firstly, God is Non-Interventionist no matter how much we would like to think he is guiding us, sitting at our right hand or we at his. Secondly, and more importantly Tripp’s attribution negates the very human and humanist trait of altruism.

    To attribute to an absent deity the kindness of humanity, compassion and care by the human being for its fellow human-being is essentially a theft of the wonder of the individual’s ability to think freely, rationalise and assess the requirements of the needy, and take positive action based on altruism in its most gracious form.

    • Francis Farrell says:

      DR, you’re entitled to your opinion and you describe your thoughts in a well reasoned way. But you lose me when you state your opinions as facts in a way that doesn’t respect the right others have to their opinions.
      it’s my opinion that orthodox people, atheist or religious orthodox people, oftentimes find contrary opinions threatening or disquieting. I regret if you’re frightened by what faithful people choose to believe. There’s no need to be. Trying to prove them wrong might not help you feel better.

      • Dave Reckonin says:

        ‘…when you state your opinions as facts in a way that doesn’t respect the right others have to their opinions.’

        But Francis, I did say very clearly ‘Paul has every right to believe that if he wishes.’
        How exactly is that a lack of respect for the opinions of others?
        I do not accept that I have posed my opinions as facts. Please advise regarding these ‘facts’ /’opinions,’ about which I am provably incorrect.
        You say ‘I regret if you’re frightened by what faithful people choose to believe.’
        Please have no ‘regrets,’ as I am not the slightest bit frightened by the opinions of others. In fact I am very calm in my views. Others can believe in whatever they wish.
        What on Earth makes you suspect that I am trying to prove them wrong? I simply point out the incongruity of the many statements made by the devout which cannot be blithely and unquestioningly accepted by the majority, as they are irrational, unreasoned and illogical.

        When you say ‘it’s my opinion that orthodox people, atheist or religious orthodox people, oftentimes find contrary opinions threatening or disquieting.’

        I agree in the area of the religiously devout. In fact the more they are shown ( and not necessarily by me) to be acting or believing contrary to logic, rationality or reason, the more they will retreat inwards in their beliefs and quickly change the direction of their approach to insults.
        For example, I am now accused of being frightened by the beliefs of others. I am not frightened, in fact as mentioned I am very happy in my beliefs. To accuse me of being afraid is unsound. It is a deliberate and false accusation.

        Does it not bewilder you that the religiously devout claim that ‘God Is Love’ whilst at the same time accepting that God is the creator of all things, including ALS?

        I think that deep down the devout have this nagging doubt amongst all their beliefs, and that doubt is that they simply cannot explain a Loving God who creates ALS. And being unable to explain themselves, then that is when they revert to insult and defamation.
        I accept I am at the mercy of nature. Nature is beautiful and wondrous, and then brutal and murderous in turn. I accept that Nature is stronger than me and so if it chooses, it can Kill me as and when it wishes. I have no control over it. But I am told that Nature is an agent of God. There are over 3000 rare diseases, and most of them Kill.
        If you can explain to me rationally why God kills with these whilst he is claimed to have Unconditional Love for us, I would welcome your explanation.
        ( by the way…I have never ever met anyone who can explain this, not even the most devout! In fact the most frequent explanation I receive is along the lines of ‘I personally believe this to be so, and therefore it is correct.’)
        Have a great weekend !

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