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What Terry Fox Teaches about Mindfulness

October 2nd, 2015

Outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario there is a statue that sits on a foundation of amethyst. It is a silhouette of a young man, in his twenties, who decided to take life one step at a time and over 3 decades after his death, he still inspires a Nation. Across Canada, every September, schools celebrate Terry Fox and re-tell his story. It is a story of leadership, passion, mindfulness and love. At ArtsCalibre, we had our annual run on Wednesday September 23rd and Thursday, September 24th to honour these values. 

Of all the great Canadian Heroes, why is Terry the one that every Canadian student knows about? Why is his journey so inspiring?

Terry’s vision was simple, yet at the same time it was an overwhelmingly difficult undertaking. He took something most of us with two legs do with little thought and made it extraordinary by moving thousands of kilometres with only one leg. Close your eyes for a few seconds and put yourself in Terry's shoes. I am not sure if the mental or physical fatigue of this adventure was more painful for him.

His mission was simple: Don’t.... Stop.... Moving. So why are we so inspired by such a simple act?

We do not really know what Terry was like before his disease.  His decision to help the other children with cancer, to truly make a difference...where did this come from? What kind of upbringing helps a boy in his 20's to decided to take on running across Canada? What are the values that he gained as a child to prepare him to take on this amazing feat? Do our children have the opportunity to learn these values? We talk about Terry as being a leader, but I think what makes him a story we still talk about 30 years later, is that he was so present with his task at hand and allowing himself to feel all the sensations without getting overwhelmed and stopping. What is hard about taking that simple step over and over again? Through rain and sun, in crowds and all alone....through pain.  His goal was to raise one dollar for every Canadian.  The year that Terry passed away, he raised one dollar for every Canadian; he achieved his goal.  Today, Canadians are reaching that goal with every Terry Fox Run. 

We do not know what roadblocks our children will face, but if we teach them about heroes like Terry Fox, about how to be present and mindful even when it hurts, their personal leadership will be able to creatively develop and flourish. They will be able to smile and feel proud, even if it is not sunny everyday.  As Stephen Covey says, "we always have the power to choose our own weather."