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I don’t know about you, but for me, the universe has always worked in mysterious ways, often leaving me scratching my head and wondering  about coincidence. 

It’s the way things tend to stack up in really odd combinations that make absolutely no sense—until, of course, they do. 

It’s moving from what appears on the surface to be wholly random to a set of circumstances that are not only glaringly obvious in the way they fit together, but appear deliberate as well. It’s as if some omnipotent external force stacked the dominoes in perfect order so they fall in place precisely where they must.

The last few weeks have been like that, filled with all kinds of seemingly unrelated events. 

The first was a podcast interview focused on what I simply refer to as my “Give Me Your Tired and Broken Cars” speech and how so very little has changed since it was delivered years ago. The speech was intended to be a State of the Industry address. It was meant to be what I understood to be an exploration of where we’ve been, where are and where we’re going as an industry. That’s what they asked for, and that’s what I gave them.  Well, almost. 

You see, no one ever followed up to let me know what you weren’t supposed to talk about. So, I cataloged every challenge, obstacle and roadblock we were faced with then, and have continued to battle every day since. The same stresses, tensions and crises preventing us from reaching our potential as professionals. 

It was the first time I ventured out beyond the familiar and safe boundaries of the shop and it resulted in a second career as a writer, speaker and industry leader that continues to this day.

The second seemingly unrelated set of circumstances has nothing at all to do with the industry. At least, not at first glance.

It has to do with sharing my stem cell/bone marrow transplant experience with others: Some who have just been diagnosed, some who are about to embark upon the same path I’ve been traveling and others further along in their treatment. 

In one instance, I was asked to be a scout—to look at where we were as an industry and then imagine the industry as it could be. As it should be. In the other instance, I was asked to act as a guide, sharing what I learned in treatment as a scout, while negotiating what I experienced dealing with my diagnosis, treatment and now—recovery.

I’ve come to understand that both are simultaneously a privilege and a responsibility—paths I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen for myself at the time, but have come to cherish since.

As I continue to get stronger, I find myself struggling with the notion of retirement, especially after a lifetime of industry involvement and the sense of obligation I feel to the doctors and nurses who have given me the gift of time. An obligation to help others like myself who are headed down the same road.

Yes, I am committed to spending time with my kids and grandchildren. I worked too hard to get well not to. And, yes, I would like to hang out with Lesley: To travel and spend time with friends and family. But I don’t think I am capable of spending my days sitting in a rocking chair comfortably placed in a shady corner of the porch—that is, if we had a porch. 

I accepted the role and responsibilities of a trade journalist, a speaker, educator and industry leader so I could act as a scout, sharing what I found was an inevitable future with the industry and individuals I love. 

I have accepted the role of guide, both for the repair community and for cancer patients like myself, struggling with an uncertain future. 

The opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with cancer patients, particularly Bone Marrow Transplant patients like myself, is a gift I’ve been given by my treatment team at the City of Hope and through the video-blog I’ve been recording since I entered treatment. 

Both help me feel whole. Both help me feel useful again.

I recognized the importance of being both a scout and a guide after confronting a life-threatening illness. Sharing what you have learned and what you have seen is, perhaps, the most valuable, most meaningful gift you can give. And, you don’t have to go through Chemotherapy, have your bone marrow destroyed or your immune system wiped out to do it.

Like everything else in life, it is a choice. The choice to participate. A choice to either help others traveling the same path or ignore the gift of guidance and companionship only you can give. 

The question is not whether or not it is a privilege and responsibility we all share. The question is, do we have the will—the strength of character—to act?

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