I LOVE BURGERS!
The music from the Hero Holiday video fades and the stage lights start to come back up. The empty stage is suddenly filled with Cory, grinning from ear to ear, waving casually to the gym full of expectant high school students. “Hi guys! My name is Cory, and if there is one thing I love, it’s burgers! I love every kind of burger: cheese burger, mushroom burger, chicken burger, deluxe burger. I love burgers! I also love making a difference and having a good time.”Five years ago, Cory, his mom, and two other siblings were sitting down to watch a movie, waiting for their dad to get back from his mountain climbing expedition. The phone rang, and from that moment forward, life would never be the same. Cory’s dad had slipped and fell from a cliff during his climb, and that fall took his life.Untimely death is always unjust. Intense loss and grief can rob you of the ability to make good choices and to protect your relationships. You are left wondering if you will ever be free of the blinding ache that steals from you, moment by moment. Being a teenage guy who is faced with so much pain and loss can be almost too much. At first your friends can try to be supportive, but being guys and being teenagers, there is only so much support they can offer. The hardest part about watching someone go through loss is how it can somehow put the same panic in you. What if you end up being hurt by the same thing? It is awkward and uncomfortable to know what to say or do for that person, and many people hope it just goes away. But time moves on. Pretty soon, you are the only one who is mindful of how much you hurt, how much you have lost, and what you will never again experience. That’s where Cory found himself, and the best answer seemed to be to find ways to numb the ache. He wanted to forget about it – to stop feeling like the centre of everyone’s pity.Smoking pot seemed like a good answer, if not completely logical.Smoking up may seem harmless enough: you feel good, you forget the ugly stuff, you are united with the people around you by the fact that you are all reaching out to the same replacement. But just because you are numb doesn’t mean it will go away. The drugs don’t stop it – they just help to dig the hole for you. They are a greedy cohort, demanding your money, loyalty, and emotions. Pain doesn’t stop because you will it to, it needs to be faced. Loss is unavoidable, and no matter what you try to do to make it any different, it still comes down to the fact that you have experienced it and you must choose who you become in spite of it. Cory was slipping into a deep place and his family was scared they were going to lose him.Cory’s mom and sister found out about Hero Holiday through some friends. They worked tirelessly to convince him to take a chance and go to Mexico on spring break with 80+ other teenagers from his city. Reluctantly he agreed. Ten days without pot. Could he do it? Did he even want to?To his surprise, amazing moments happened on that trip: unexpected friendships, intense moments of laughter, a lot of hard work, and an intense cultural experience. But it was when they stood in front of the Mexican family’s completed house that Cory was changed. Although Cory’s world seemed to be different from theirs in almost every other way, he realized that he shared an affinity with them that was more real than anyone else could understand: they had lost their father too. That day, under the Mexican sun, Cory’s eyes were opened. If they could get this far, so could he. He could get through this; he could turn his life around and begin to make it count for something more.Today, Cory is touring with LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) as one of our School of Leadership students. He has returned twice to Mexico since the time that he stood in front of that house, and each time he has returned with a little more resolve to leave his mark on history. Each week, Cory shares his Hero Holiday story with thousands of high school students, hoping to give them the courage to step out and recognize how powerful their lives can be. He shares it because he has realized that change is possible, we just need to be willing to try. And, of course, because he loves burgers and gets to eat them almost everyday in the high school cafeterias that host our teams!Want to be a part of making change? Check out www.livedifferent.com. LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) helps many families in Mexico have safe and secure housing. If you would like to know how you can help us, please check out our website for projects that we are currently committed to.Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. ~ Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh