There were only a few dry eyes in the audience at today’s Rotary meeting after two speakers told inspirational stories about working with organizations helping children. First up was Cecilia Ramirez, an articulate speaker who works with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Cecilia’s open demeanor in telling her own story about how she got involved with the program was inspiring. As a child of immigrant parents who worked 16 hour days to provide for their family, she did not have access to any type of culture. In high school, she had a Big Sister who took her to the ballet and opera, which opened her eyes to beauty she never knew existed. She spoke eloquently about what that had meant to her as a young woman, and inspired her to work with the Big Brother Big Sister program as an adult.

Jim Etherington, a college basketball player who went on to work for Hewlett-Packard, and then as a real estate broker and appraiser, spoke about his experiences with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, where he is the East Bay Area Coordinator. The Foundation grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. Jim’s passion was on full display as he spoke about the various types of wishes granted to children he had worked with. One young girl, confined to her bedroom due to her illness, wished for a garden that would provide a lovely view that she could see from her window. But one story had Jim choked up to the point of needing several pauses. A young man who was facing surgery with only a 50% survival rate longed to join the practice of a championship paintball team. Not only did he get his wish and a whole lot more (he eventually went on to become a member of a professional team) he said it was the thought of the wish coming true that gave him the courage to overcome the painful and life-threatening ordeal.

As Jim said in his closing remarks, most of us don’t have problems like these kids. What we have are inconveniences.

It’s nice to have an occasional reality check, especially when delivered in such a compelling and compassionate way.