“How can we help them?” ~JessieJessie was the kind of child we champion at the Infinite Smile. In the face of adversity, instead of sinking in self-pity she was concerned with others. While leaving her simulation appointment on March 11, 2011, Erik and wife, Stacey, tried to alleviate her fears by discussing the other children like her who she saw in the hospital. When she realized they were sick and some may not return home, she simply asked her parents, “How can we help them?” After much discussion Jessie decided she wanted to bring toys in clear plastic containers (similar to large pretzel barrels) to children staying at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, and call them JoyJars®. Shortly after that, her older sister’s friend posted a basic phrase that said so much, “Never Ever Give Up”. This soon became Jessie’s mantra and the term NEGU® was born.
“What have I done to make the world a better place today?”This determined girl suddenly was inspiring so many. As she walked the halls at CHOC you could hear kids whisper, “There’s Jessie!”, the term “NEGU” was spreading like wildfire, adults were getting NEGU tattoos, and she had fans and supporters now all over the world championing her cause. A simple project that was geared to take her mind off of treatments and bring a smile to her face while helping others, now turned into a jar making factory in their garage and requests were popping up all over the globe. Her courage and charitable spirit was even winning her awards from CNN and a British award generally reserved for their citizens – the Diana Award. A humble girl, Jessie couldn’t believe all the good the JoyJars® were getting. Others saw it differently though. They realized she had ignited a passion in others that many search for their entire lives and never find. A child inspiring kids and adults all over the world – it was a beautiful thing. Being a parent of young kids and meeting Erik and his wife personally, it was a difficult book to read at times. For about a week I was that person at the gym crying while reading their journey. However, there are many reasons why I loved this book and wanted to blog about it. Whether you have kids or not or known anyone who has passed of cancer or not – this book has tremendous lessons that one family learned from 11 months with one incredible girl. I hope that you will read them and pause to appreciate the magnitude of what this young lady contributed to this world and what her family learned from their experience.
- She taught us how to listen to our hearts and take action. If something is wrong in the world and it hurts your heart, you have the power to do something to make a difference. Jessie taught others that at any age you can empower yourself to make changes to make life better for ourselves and others
- The Rees’ learned how a community can come together in ways never imaginable. From their church donating air miles to give them one last family vacation to Hawaii, to a friends’ connections sending a limo to take their family to a taping and backstage passes to the American Idol set – we learn that these acts of kindness not only gave Jessie some amazing experiences but these acts of kindness gave Erik and Stacey a lifetime of gratitude for these gifts.
- That a life of service and giving back provides just as much to the recipients as the donor. The JoyJars® were invented by Jessie to help others but it was really those kids that helped her. Seeing their excitement and getting their letters brought so much joy to Jessie and her family. These plastic jars of love provided a kind of medicine no hospital could – not just to Jessie but her entire family.
- Anyone can be inspired to do better with the proper leader. An 11 year old girls’ creation touched all ages, races and demographics – no one is immune. It’s a choice and a life-changing one at that to extend kindness to others.
- One can always use their talents for good. It doesn’t take money, a certain degree, or a specific age to make a difference. If you have a talent and passion for the higher good, you can contribute in some way. It just takes some creativity to discover where your talents are best served for others.
- It’s not “other people” who are responsible for changing our world and making it a better place. It can be changed by us and must be changed by us. As Erik said, “We get to take care of each other. Jessie figured that out early in life”. Small changes produce so much value.
- Material things, petty arguments, or daily complaints – none of them matter in the end. It all comes down to love. How to share it, show it and extend if to others.
So, the final question is: DO YOU NEGU?
Thank you!!! So beautifully written!!
Such a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing. BTW, we LOVE Infinite Smile, how can we get involved?
Thank you so much Leon and Terry. Please feel free to share this story with others. She was an incredible girl!