I never paid much attention to this question until hearing the story of a man only three years older than me named Pablo Ráez, who recently lost his battle against leukemia.
I have one description for Pablo: kind-hearted. Leukemia and other forms of cancer take a great toll on an individual’s body, yet Pablo managed to find joy where others would only see darkness and despair. Instead of viewing his sickness as an obstacle that limited his capabilities, he welcomed his diagnosis and was grateful for it. Pablo — just 21 when he died in Malaga, Spain — believed his illness was teaching him about life.
His story reminded me that life should never be a to-do list where each homework assignment, project and after-school event should be checked off quickly for the day to reach its end, but instead, we should see each day as an opportunity to show kindness to those we encounter.
Each day that we are blessed to be alive, we are called by God to spread His teachings and His word through the kindness of our actions.
As I continued to read about Pablo, I was blown away by everything he had accomplished in such little time, and the might of his determination to maintain his strength in God. He taught me that even in the darkest of times, we always have a choice on how we want to make our mark on Earth. We can either show kindness to others, or we can treat each dark moment as an obstacle.
Pablo chose the first option. Although at times he found himself afraid of what lay ahead, he never lost his generous and kind-hearted spirit. During his last two years after discovering his illness, he always found time to spread his message of faith and optimism.
His inspiring presence and messages earned him more than 300,000 followers on Facebook. He encouraged bone marrow donations to fight leukemia and the local hospital was swamped with donors.
Kindness is never measured by its size, but by its effect. Pablo always made time to accept and give back kindness to his community.
It’s normal to be frightened about what our lives have in store, but we should never let that fear hold us back from spreading joy. Pablo’s story is a living example of this.
God sent Pablo as an example for others, to show that kindness is not something that can just be taken, but can be given.
In the end, we will all leave a mark on Earth. Our acts of kindness can inspire a chain of events that will grow to something you never would have imagined.
Pablo reminds me that no matter the age or circumstance, we should leave the world a better place for others.
(Azevedo, 18, is a Grade 12 student at Holy Name of Mary College School in Mississauga, Ont.)