I rarely suggest that anything I write is a must read. There is a simple reason for that. Most of what I write is not. Today is the exception not because of my writing skill but because of the subject of this article. I have been deeply touched, moved and a little shamed by the story of an amazing little boy from Lynnwood, Washington.
KOMO News in Seattle reported the original story on November 7th.
When Brenden Foster was first diagnosed with leukemia, he and his mom began a new tradition. Every night they list three positive things that happened during the day, and they have to share a laugh. A chuckle will do, Brenden said, but a fake laugh will never do.
In the last days of his life, it was a homeless camp, namely Nickelsville, that captured the boy's heart.
"I was coming back from one of my clinic appointments and I saw this big thing of homeless people, and then I thought I should just get them something," he said. "They're probably starving, so give them a chance," said Brenden.
Brenden is too ill to leave his bed and feed the homeless. But Brenden's wish will not go unfulfilled.
One week later KOMO updated what had now become a international story of inspiration and love.
The local boy whose dying wish to feed the homeless inspired thousands across the world has taken a turn for the worse. Brenden Foster is growing weaker, but his message is growing stronger. His body is failing, his skin yellowing. His mother is trying to decide on the wording for his grave marker.
"B-Man is his nickname, or Mr. B. But most people call him B-Man," said Wendy Foster.
The end is near, and Brenden has one question for God. "Why at so young an age? I could have done more. But if it has to be now, it has to be now," he said.
It's easy to imagine all he could have accomplished after seeing what the 11 year old has achieved in his final days. Brenden's dying wish to help the homeless has touched hearts from Saudi Arabia to South Carolina. Many of them left voice messages for their new hero.
"We collected over 20,000 cans of food and donated it to a local food bank in your honor," said a woman named Nina. A Vietnam vet from Kentucky who lost his leg in the war wants me to give Brenden his Purple Heart for bravery.
Brenden's message inspired Daniel Chairez, a 12-year-old boy in California who is also battling leukemia. "He really inspired me because he's not afraid. And he wants to help people and he's not selfish," he said. Daniel says he wants to pick up where Brenden leaves off and help the homeless.
"I think that's very great," Brenden said.
Courtesy KOMO News, Seattle
On November 20th Brenden was able to attend a food drive organized on his behalf to feed the homeless and fulfill his dying desire. Brenden urges others to follow their dreams. "Mine already came true," he said. Achieving Brenden's wish makes his mom proud. But the thought of losing him has been devastating her and the expected costs of his funeral frightening her. "We don't know how we're going to pay for it," said Wendy. Worry no more, Wendy. The Seattle Seahawks saw the KOMO News story and asked how they can help. The Seahawks players have decided to pay for the funeral of beloved Brenden Foster, the one little boy who has touched so many lives.
"He's always thought about others. Never complained about having to go through this, ever," said his mother, Wendy Foster. "It's devastating, but I find great peace in knowing we've had our time together and that we will see each other again," said Wendy.
"I had a great time and until my time has come, I'm gonna keep having a good time," he said.
On the morning of November 21st, one day after seeing his food drive come to pass, Brenden passed away in his mother’s arms. I remembered the words of Jesus as the “adults” were arguing over who would be the “greatest” in heaven.
About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 18, NLT)
I am sure that Brenden entered the Kingdom of Heaven as one of the greatest. His life demonstrated exactly what Jesus was teaching. Becoming like a child is not about acting childish. Jesus asked us to model that childlike humility and belief that things that are wrong can and should be made right. The childlike faith to allow God to love you and let that love flow out to others.
Instead of looking at the homeless with disdain or fear Brenden looked at them with a heart to help. Instead of feeling uncomfortable and looking away he looked those unfortunate souls squarely in the eye and said how can I help? I am humbled by his example. Would you join me in doing something out of your comfort zone this Christmas to help others? Sure, things may not be as good as other years but I would imagine most of us are in a better place than where Brenden was when his heart reached out to help others.
Do something special this Christmas in the memory of this special young man. And you can imagine that on the streets of heaven a newly arrived saint will be saying "I think that's very great". Thank you Brenden for putting this year in perspective. Your example will live on.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.