Leah Still, Lauren Hill and the idea of courage


We forever underestimate the resiliency of our children. We “spare” them bad news, “shield” them from hurt. Their cocoon is special and should not be violated.

That’s too bad. They have so much to teach us.

Kids who have been sick and then recovered own a sort of understanding and maturity most of us can only wish for. They know what matters.

I write sports for the Cincinnati Enquirer, and was blessed to have known Lauren Hill. I don’t know Leah Still, but I know her dad. These are extraordinary people.

I hope you watched the ESPYs Wednesday night. They honored Lauren and Leah. The video tributes left me reaching for the Kleenex and suggesting I must have gotten something in my eye.Lauren was diagnosed with a rare form of pediatric brain cancer. She lived about 18 months after that. She was an earth angel.

It wasnt just that she raised nearly $1.5 million for research. It was that she spent every minute being an example of our all iPhone fotos 677best selves. Never has a young woman approached certain death with more grace and dignity. Lives have been changed thanks to her courage. And will continue to be changed.

Leah Still is a 4-year-old girl, whose cancer is in remission. Her father, Devon, is a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. Devon’s devotion to Leah — and the way he has dealt publicly with her illness — are shining examples for anyone seeking to be a better human being. Which is all of us.

Still played football on Sundays and dad the rest of the week. He was with Leah, in the hospital and out, whenever possible. Leah, strengthened by her dad’s love and resolve, is herself loving and resolute. Her spirit will take your breath away.

Our special needs kids do the same stuff. They know they’re “different.” Kids with Down syndrome understand they’re not “typical” but they don’t dwell on it. In fact, in my experience, they revel in it. Jillian and her new husband Ryan are “special” but not in the obvious way. They’re special for the love they enjoy, and the joy they inspire. They’ve been through a lot, same as Lauren and Leah. Jillian had bronchiolitis at six weeks, spent 12 days in the hospital and almost died. She emerged better and wiser for it. Her parents emerged more grateful than ever for her glad presence in our lives.

Anyway, here’s to our courageous kids. They have much to teach the world.

Expect. Don’t accept.

Thanks for reading


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