I found the inspiration for this blog several years ago when I was researching my newest book. It’s an idea from Christian mystic Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, “Not everything is immediately good..., but everything is capable of becoming good.”
His words have stayed with me and I have been looking for the good ever since. Because we tend to find what we look for, I have much to report to you about my personal treasure hunt. Friends have told me that my experiences with this concept have been helpful, so I figured I would take it out into the wider world through this blog.
I’m not talking about a “Pollyanna” view of life that ignores the pain and suffering that exist, but a willingness to look loss in the eye and find what good may come from it. Yesterday there was a story on NPR of a Palestinian man who lost his three daughters in an Israeli bombing, and an Israeli who lost his son to a Palestinian attack. Both men decided that enough children had been lost, and it was time to put hate aside and work toward peace. From the crucible of unimaginable pain, forgiveness arose. When these men speak of building peace, the power of their words is fueled by depth of their losses.
I began looking for the good because of a question my then four-year-old son asked me, “When will my shots be over?” Brennan had been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and we’d been told that he would have to balance his food intake with insulin injections for the rest of his life. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him never, so I said, “I don’t know, but we’re working on it.”
I felt devastated by his diagnosis. I was angry. How could it be? Was this some cruel joke? I’d been extremely conscientious about Brennan’s health. I nursed him for more than a year and made all his baby food from scratch, because commercial baby foods back then had added sugar and salt, and myson would only get foods that were truly nutritious. Even when I learned that his diabetes emerged from a genetic predisposition, my feelings of guilt and grief remained.
With Brennan’s diagnosis, his father, Alan Thicke, and I joined the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation (later renamed the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation or JDRF). We were impressed by their vision of finding a cure for diabetes. Alan jumped right in and created a fundraising project with hockey player friends from the Los Angeles Kings. Impressed by his activism, I decided I would wait and see if an idea presented itself to me.
Then I was cast as “Liz Chandler” on “Days Of Our Lives,” my first acting job. My favorite place at “Days” was the makeup room. While faces and hair were raised to individual heights of perfection, there was lots of cross-talk and several times, I overheard recipes being traded. An idea formed of a way to make my words to Brennan - we’re working on it - a reality. I would create a “Days” cookbook to raise money for diabetes research.
The Days of Our Lives Celebrity Cookbook was born. It took fifteen months, the appearance of a business card titled “Expect a Miracle,” and a philanthropic Texan to make my idea a reality. (The full story is the first chapter of my new not-yet-published book Coincidence Is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous.) Between 1981 and 1985, the Days Of Our Lives Celebrity Cookbook, Volume I and Volume II, raised more than $1 million for diabetes research.
So I know that good can arise from difficulty. My son’s diabetes has been one of my life’s great griefs and one of its great gifts. A friend of mine coined the phrase “Love something else more.” In other words, when troubles come, find a bigger vision, a higher purpose. The founders of JDRF and their quest to cure diabetes gave me a higher purpose and helped me put aside my doubts and fears. (Experts in the cookbook arena told me I would not succeed in the self-publishing market.)
Without that desire to help my son, I most likely would not have written books, formed businesses, and become an advocate for biomedical research. Of course, the best news is that even though we were told that Brennan had only a 50% chance of living an additional 25 years, he is still well after 32 years with diabetes. He’s married to the fabulous Dolly, and they have given me Tyler, my first grandson, or, as I call him, Nana’s Rascal Boy.
I invite you to begin looking for the good and to send me your stories. Perhaps you’ll give me the chance to interview you and share it here. You can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am excited about this forum and have so much to tell you in the months and years ahead. In anticipation of the good to come...