When walking in to the Feldman's home, one can't help but notice the challenge they face. The sign on the front door kindly asking visitors who are sick to refrain from coming in, the large bottle of hand sanitizer that sits on the side table in the foyer, the smell of alcohol that lingers under baked chicken and chocolate dessert. And yet, their home, now thrust in a cacophony of crisis, has energy of hope, optimism and unconditional love pulsing through its veins.
Zoe Feldman, a bright eyed two and half year old child wearing a pink tutu came outside to greet me. Her head bald from chemo therapy, her chest covered in bandaids her arms plastered with stickers and pretend tattoos, gifts she got from the children's ward during her chemo treatment. We played in her room while she painted my nails as I interviewed her parents about what they thought the meaning of life was.
Zoe's diagnosis came as a surprise to Jeffrey and Ravit Feldman. Nine weeks ago, after 10 days of their small child writhing in pain, the unthinkable was diagnosed when a malignant mass the size of a grapefruit was found in Zoe's belly. I've seen families go through this sort of hell before. I have witnessed first hand how illness can violate a person's faith. Yet, Jeffrey smiled and told his story with uplifting conviction. As if to say G-d himself was sitting on his shoulders holding his hand the whole time and nothing could shake his confidence. The optimism and sheer blessing he felt relayed filled the room so deeply, even I stopped seeing Zoe's cancer. All I saw was Zoe's opportunity.
Jeffrey's life before Zoe's diagnosis was like every other American's -- working, trying to get by, trying to make a life for his family, not thinking about much else but being a good father, a good provider and a good husband. But since the diagnosis, Jeffrey's eyes have been widened to stories and events he had never thought possible. "This happened to the right family," says Jeffrey. And he meant that when he said it. He truly is inspired by his daughter's gregarious personality that has emerged. "Before this, Zoe kept to herself was shy and withdrawn, now she is alive touching people's lives with her bright soul," Ravit shared with me. Jeffrey is truly inspired by the friends that have come together for him from all across the city to support their family. He has been touched deeply by the unity that has formed as a result of his daughter's struggle.
Nothing prepared me for the meeting I was about to experience as Jeffrey introduced me to one of the reasons for his hope and optimism. "Big Zoe," as he called her, was an 11-year-old soft ball player that had never met the Feldman family before. So inspired by "little Zoe's" illness, "Big Zoe" decided to take some action -- a gesture that created a butterfly effect of possibility and hope. What has emerged from this illness is truly astounding, and I don't think I will ever see cancer the same way again.
Before I left, Jeffrey started talking about this as a tragedy, and insisted on correcting himself, saying, "This is not a tragedy, this is a challenge."
I guess the difference between a tragedy and a challenge is that tragedy lacks hope, tragedy lacks optimism, tragedy lacks possibility. Challenge is reframing oneself to see the potential within the struggle.
This short film showcases one of the most incredible stories I have ever seen emerge from pain and suffering. It is stories like these that we hope to develop more of on our Life Means What site.
Today the meaning of life means to me that no matter how small you are, you can believe and change the world to make a difference.
As an added bonus, part of this film was scored with my music partner, Marcos Moscat. I feel privileged to have had the honor to add the lyrics and vocals. As part of our way of paying it forward, once the song is up on iTunes, a portion of the funds will be given to Zoe Feldman's family to help with medical expenses. Click here to hear the full song entitled "SEARCH FOR THE LIGHT"
To be part of the search, please go here.
Follow Chava Tombosky on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mybigfatjewlife