Adam and Louie Showing Us the Way

From The St. George's Independent School Facebook page...Huge group of race participants out this morning for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital race events. Our cheer station is at Madison and Belvedere, complete with SGIS bus. Go Adam's Army! Go Team Carson! Go Gryphons!
Photograph taken during the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend, which included the Charity Run for Children with Cancer.  Adam is on the front row in the center wearing a gray winter hat.  The St. George’s Independent School Facebook page on December 5, 2015 reported…”Huge group of race participants out this morning for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital race events. Our cheer station is at Madison and Belvedere, complete with SGIS bus. Go Adam’s Army! Go Team Carson! Go Gryphons!” [Team Carson refers to Carson Head (SGIS ’24) who passed away last summer after a valiant battle with osteosarcoma and a year of treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Carson and Adam became friends during their cancer treatments.]
In my last entry, “When It Is Good, Name It So”, I wrote about some good things that happened in our school’s  first week back from Thanksgiving Break. Central to that piece was a reference to Adam Cruthirds, a senior at St. George’s, who gave the Chapel Talk on Friday, December 4th. Over the last year Adam has been facing Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). I highly recommend reading this article from the Commercial Appeal to learn more about Adam, and the amazing army, “Adam’s Army” that he has created. You will also get an idea of the amazing role of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has played in Adam’s life over the last year.  His leadership is not only raising a staggering amount of money for St. Jude’s, but it has also served to glue the St. George’s Community together in powerful ways. His effort and his leadership have made our school stronger, more supportive, more ready to stand together. These are significant gifts.

I asked Adam if I might publish his Chapel Talk from December 4th here on the “Ross All Over the Map”, and he graciously agreed. Speaking in front of a crowd uniquely familiar with what he has been facing, Adam’s sense of humor, intelligence and humility shine through. To me, his role in the school demonstrates the extent to which it is young people, students, who have the ability to make the school great even more than the adults, teachers, staff, and administrators who seek to serve them. One student can make a profound difference, and a group of students leading toward the good can be unstoppable. St. George’s is benefitting from that truth this year. I hope you will take the time to read his Chapel Talk below:

“Last year, as a few of you know, an incident occurred in my life that changed normal life forever. It did not just affect me. It affected my family and many loved ones around me. Believe it or not, I still deal with this life changing predicament right when I wake up, throughout the day, and when I go to sleep at night. Many of my friends and even kids I don’t know happened to get this as well last year. In 2014… I got my dog Louie.

Louie, named after my Doctor, Dr. Pui, and my good friend, Luis, who passed away last valentines day from osteosarcoma is a playful, enthusiastic, one and a half year old, yellow Labrador retriever, but he is not like most normal dogs. I have seen my “son” go through something no father should have to see. Like me, this champ has been through very tough times way too early in his promising life.

Innocently wondering the roads one gloomy night in rural Arkansas, little 4 week old Louie was blindsided by a car and left to fend for himself on the side of the rode. Luckily, a good Samaritan saw little Louie struggling and took him to the vet. Weeks were spent and many decisions were made in order to save his life, and one of those decisions was whether to save his back right leg or not because it was severely infected. The vet was unable to save Louie’s leg, and he was given to Memphis Area Golden Retriever Rescue in order to find a family.

This is where I come into the story of Louie’s unique, adventurous life. Needing a companion for my chemotherapy treatment, I saw little three legged Louie online, showed him to my parents, pulled the cancer card, and adopted Louie. He has been by my side through the worst moments as I deal with side effects of cancer and its treatment. Louie is a constant in my life and I can always count on him being at the door, wagging his tale when I come home.

So you’re probably whispering to your friends right now saying something like, “Why is this kid talking about his crippled dog. That chemo must have really taken a toll on his mind.” Well… Louie has taught me many crucial things this last year and in honor of how many legs he has, I will tell you three essential traits that Louie portrays on a daily basis.

The most obvious characteristic that Louie teaches me is perseverance. Perseverance is defined as steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. The odds were not in his favor in the first few months of his life; however, he battled through it and came out with one less leg but much more confidence. When I am blinded by daunting things ahead of me, whether that be an AP English test or hip surgery that I will have in three days, it helps to think of warriors, like Louie, who have gone through the unspeakable and know that if they can do it, so can I. I think of my friends like 3 year old Levi or 16 year old Nick who are battling the same disease and know that we are all in this together. Everyone in this room has some level of determination that can get them through anything.

I know dogs can’t talk and express emotions very well but Louie is always happy. His contagious spirit is not hindered by his disability one bit. He hops and skips around so happily, it makes others happy to just be in his presence. You can always see him smile even if I’ve forgot to feed him or he really needs to go outside. I try to portray Louie’s charisma at school, church, St. Jude, and anywhere else. From having close friends die from the same disease that I battle everyday to knowing ahead what my rigorous medical treatment consists of, I have a lot to be down about. BUT I try to radiate a feeling of joy and shine light on the good things that surround me like school, family, and the Memphis Grizzlies. In the words of Mr. G and Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t worry, be happy.” This doesn’t mean that you cant be down when you have definite reason to be sad, but from my own, personal experience, during those times of tribulation and sadness, it helps to surround yourself with things that bring you happiness and gratitude.

Another amazing trait that can be taken from Louie’s every day habits is his sense of adventure. Whether it be flying down slick wooden stairs, three legs and all, to greet unsuspecting guests at the front door or knock food off the dinner table with his long nose knowing he is going to be yelled at, Louie charges on without looking back. From his missing limb to not being the sharpest tool in the shed, my dog does have a lot going against but that doesn’t stop him at all. I try to model my dogs thirst for adventure whenever I can even though I have a few things going against me as well. The old cliché if there’s a will there’s a way is perfect for this instance. If you have belief that you can do something, that faith helps a lot in whatever you’re trying to accomplish. Even though my hips are that of an octogenarian right now, I’m going to complete 13.1 miles because I have the will to finish. Adventure doesn’t mean simply jumping out of a plane, it means doing something that is challenging but you know you can do it.

I can definitely thank Louie for discovering my sense of determination, happiness, and adventure. The saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is true but a new dog has taught me some old tricks this past year as well. I hope by telling you his story, that you will find your inner Louie and learn some tricks to navigate whatever comes your way.

A small part of Adam's Army Walking during the recent St. Judes Marathon Weekend.
A small part of Adam’s Army (with Adam wearing the red shirt in the middle) walking during the recent St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend.
Adam's Army Headed further down the road.
Adam’s Army headed down the road during the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend.

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