It was never a dream of mine to, while sitting in the backseat of a car going 55 mph, hold hands with someone sitting in the backseat of another car…but I did it. It was not one of my brighter decisions, though I must admit it was exhilarating. It was an impulsive risk, and it’s the kind I’ve taken at times throughout my life.
Last week, my sister took it all off. In front of hundreds of people, she bared herself in a way she has never done before. And she did it for money. If you know her, you’re not too surprised at this behavior. She tends to do stuff like this.
Stuff like raising over $1500 for childhood cancer research by shaving her head.
Did you think I meant something else? Sigh. Get your mind out of the gutter, people.
My sister, Theresa, shaved her head last Friday as a way to raise money for St. Baldrick’s childhood cancer research. As a fun incentive for people to donate, the organization (named as a combination of “bald” and “St. Patrick’s,” since the first event was held March 17, 2000) encourages people to raise funds for research by pledging to shave their heads.
Theresa is a teacher, and her high school has been supporting St. Baldrick’s for a few years. At the very moment she was speaking with a teacher about being a “shavee” this year, another colleague walked into the room and shared that his grandson had to have his eye removed in his battle with cancer. It was a powerful coincidence that fueled my sister’s commitment to participate. Not surprisingly, she chose to sponsor this boy in her efforts. (The boy has since gotten his labs back, and, thank God, he is now cancer-free.)
My sister and I hate cancer. (Is there anyone who doesn’t?!) It’s not only taken our dad, but affected too many people that we know and love. And—just too many people, period. It is an insidious, horrible disease—but research is making strides. As the St. Baldrick’s website notes, “In the 1950s, almost all kids diagnosed with cancer died. Because of research, today about 90% of kids with the most common type of cancer will live. But for many other types, progress has been limited, and for some kids there is still little hope for a cure.”
I am very proud of Theresa for “taking it all off.” (I won’t gush much more, as she already accuses me of posting schmaltz.) She not only raised a chunk of money for research, but she was also able to donate her hair to an organization that will use it to make hairpieces for disadvantaged children suffering with hair loss for various reasons. Shaving her head was a double win.
And, in a way, it was also a kind of triple win, as well—at least for Theresa—because her decision to shave her head had another layer of personal impact.
You see, my sister and I both started going gray in our early 20s, and we are now predominantly (and prematurely, mind you!) gray. As I’ve shared before, deciding when and if to cease the coloring madness is not easy. Both (originally) brunettes, if we stopped coloring our hair, we would have to deal with a defined line of brown-to-white until it all grew out. Who wants to look like variations of a skunk tail for months? Not me.
But when my sister committed to shaving her head for St. Baldrick’s, she also decided that she would let it grow back au natural. I found this to be a brilliant plan. No ugly outgrowth! Just new, healthy hair. That is just smart all over the place.
Who knows? It may be the route I take when I decide to make the transition. I will watch my sister’s journey and perhaps it will inspire me to one day do the same. (After all—I have time if I am to follow in my sister’s footsteps, as she is MUCH older than me. You’re welcome, T.)
Doesn’t she look great?
So far, she is loving it. As she recently shared on Facebook:
Shaving head for St. Baldrick’s – $1,585! Savings in hair products per month – $17 Time saved every morning – 25 minutes Startling myself every time I pass a mirror – PRICELESS!
Her bold commitment has also, in a way, set her free.
Of course, when I wrote the title for this post, I was hoping that the salacious nature of it would make you want to read it…
But there is a “real” reason for it, too. Those who shave their heads for St. Baldrick’s are ready to drastically change their appearance—at least for a while—to help the battle against cancer.
What are you willing to commit to? What will move you enough to say, “for this, I will endure some discomfort/pain/sacrifice/risk”?
I know I’m not ready to shave my head quite yet. While I did do the AVON 39 Walk to End Breast Cancer a few years back, I’m not courageous enough to go cue ball like my sister. But understanding what it is that you are willing to “take it all off” for is an important thing to know about yourself, don’t you think?
What will you put yourself on the line for?
If you feel comfortable enough to share in a comment below, please do.
And…way to go, T!
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Barbara Walters retired last week. While I find her to be grating at times, she is certainly due much respect and kudos for being a pioneer in the news business. I watched some of her farewell coverage, and one thing stood out among many significant things she has accomplished in her life:
Her epic failure.
In a groundbreaking move for 1976, she was paid an annual salary of one million dollars to co-anchor the nightly news with Harry Reasoner. He was ticked that she was earning twice his buck, plus he hadn’t been asked if he even wanted a co-anchor—let along a woman. (Anchorman, anyone?)
He didn’t hide his disdain. In the video below (click the pic), they give a quick summary of the relationship. In this day and age of the “photoshop mentality,” where we gloss over everything to make it look the “best” it can be, I find his raw contempt remarkable.
The ratings tanked and the duo failed. I’m sure in part it was due to the anti-chemistry that Reasoner created, but Barbara herself has said that news anchor wasn’t her strength. Later that year, she found the very thing that would turn her career around—the Barbara Walters Specials that became a resident part of our pop culture.
But first she failed miserably and nationally.
It was kind of like she got pantsed for the whole world to see.
On top of that, first Gilda Radner and then Cheri Oteri did hilarious parodies of her, too. It was easy to laugh at her—she was Barbara Waawaa.
I can’t imagine what that must have been like. My feelings can get hurt if someone doesn’t like the gift I thought they’d love, and here she is being patronized by a coworker and made fun of for her speech impediment on national TV.
I certainly wouldn’t have blamed her if she just licked her wounds and said “enough.”
But she didn’t. She just kept working at it. She developed her skills and found the perfect niche for her abilities.
Flash forward nearly 40 years, and as part of her recent tribute, women currently in the national news industry came out to say thanks to her for paving the way for them. Scores of women. It was an amazing testament to the impact that Barbara Walters has made.
I wonder if she hadn’t failed as that news anchor…would she still have accomplished all that she did? I know there’s no way to really know that, but…I wonder.
Failure can indeed propel us toward fortune. I don’t just mean monetary fortune, but the fortune of our calling…our creativity…our heart. When we fall, we have to make that decision to get up or give up. When we choose to get up, we do so knowing that we could fall again. We consciously decide it’s worth it, even with the pain of falling.
And yet it is so hard to risk it. At least it is for me. I’m not a fan of getting pantsed. I’m not a fan of falling on my face. But if I only choose a path where I can ring up successes, then the path must be pretty flat and probably leads nowhere.
For several years I helped out with our school’s rollerblading unit for our younger grades. So many wobbly little ones trying to stay upright. Often I would tell a child, “You know what I think is the best thing to do to get over your fear of falling? Fall.” They would look up at me like “Who is this crazy lady helping me?!” but then I would tell them how once they fell, they would know what it feels like…and maybe it wouldn’t be so scary anymore.
Inevitably, they would indeed fall, and if I was there to help them up, I would ask, “So…what do you think about falling now?” and they would typically say “It’s not so bad!”
Of course, there are falls that you don’t bounce back up from. Some that can really break you, and I don’t mean to sugarcoat life’s devastating falls.
But Barbara Walter’s public failure is a great reminder to me that failure can be the first step on the road to fulfillment.
I need to let my wobbly little self continually put on my metaphorical roller blades and have at it. Hopefully every time I fall I’ll look up and say, “It’s not so bad!” And if it is bad, let’s hope there’s someone around who knows how to dial 911!