Two years ago, I sat down to write an article about donating food to help feed the hungry in America when I first heard about Brenden Foster. Brenden, an eleven-year-old Washington boy, was feeding the poor despite the fact that he was dying of leukemia. So every year I honor Brenden's legacy by posting his story in an effort to inspire others to do as Brenden did -- put those in need before himself.
Of all the volunteers whom I have been fortunate to meet, I find that most of them do so because of their own unique experiences with illness or injury. However, I am still amazed that Brenden, who was so young and in the midst of his own extreme pain and suffering, was able to grasp this unique life message.
I also find it unique that Brenden shifted his focus away from his own pain, that of leukemia, and moved to a different need – hunger. Why wouldn’t Brenden spend his time trying to raise money to find a cure for leukemia, or help others suffering from the same disease? I think it’s because Brenden didn't define himself as a leukemia patient. I think Brenden simply considered himself a boy who had been fortunate to have his basic life needs met. When he realized that there are homeless and poor people who don’t even have a decent meal to eat, Brenden’s eyes filled up with tears. “They’re probably starving,” Brenden says. “Give them a chance.”
So, while many children who are in Brenden’s situation get a fabulous trip or some big ticket item to bring happiness to their final days, Brenden found his happiness in knowing that members of his community rallied together to feed the homeless because of him. Folks in the community purchased food and made sandwiches for the homeless and hungry because Brenden was too sick to get out of bed and do it himself. And, stories popped up from all over the country about other children and adults who were inspired by Brenden’s charity.
Brenden Foster died on November 21, 2008. He leaves behind a legacy of giving and a generous spirit far beyond his years. As tragic as Brenden’s situation was, I believe it was his sense of charity that not only helped him cope with his pain, but undoubtedly helps his family cope with Brenden's passing.
Before he died, Brenden had mentioned that he’d like to become an angel in Heaven so that he can continue helping others. But, before he died, Brenden had inspired an army of volunteers right here on Earth. Brenden’s life may not have been a very long one, but his love for others and his desire to give back will live forever in the lives of all those whom he has touched.
Here's a clip of Brenden that was taped just before he died. Watch it and let me know how this 11 year-old boy has inspired you to give back.
Brenden Foster CNN News Story
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