Dear Jhon,

As a kid I was incredibly shy. As a baby, my mom would take me out around people and I would cry non-stop. I never spoke in school and dreaded being called upon. Even now my body temperature rises considerably when It’s my turn to talk in a meeting or a group setting. But the funny thing is, even though I’m quiet and shy and get really nervous, one of my favourite things in the world is connecting with people.

“I’m here because of a donor <3”

Just over a year ago, in the summer of 2018, I decided to do something that some would consider out of character. It wasn’t easy. As shy as I am naturally, I’m even more shy when it comes to being a transplant recipient. So, it only makes sense that I announce it proudly by going to one of the biggest transplant events created; the transplant games.

From the time we arrived for the games in Vancouver, I was surrounded by people who were nothing like me but that I had one huge thing in common with; a turbulent life event that changed every one of us. The feeling was incomparable. I realized that it was OK to be me and to be a transplant recipient. I didn’t have to be one or the other. I could be both! I was connecting with people all over Canada and it was the best thing ever.

Mid way through the trip I messaged a videographer that was working at the games. He had reached out asking people to share their stories. I was on a roll. I thought, why not? He asked me and my family over for lunch. Not a custom we are used to. But I couldn’t help thinking, this is really cool. Yeah, I may get my whole family murdered, but this is really cool. The cool feeling won, and I messaged back “what time should we be there?”

I had no idea what to tell my family. I was so nervous to tell them. I obviously couldn’t blow off my new friend Thierry, so I kinda blurted it out. “Hey, so… I have an idea of what we could do our last day”. I had planned most of the sightseeing so far so that was the easy part. I smiled awkwardly “I may have messaged this guy, he’s local…well he’s from France but lives here… he’s interested in transplant stories…he wants us to have lunch at his place…I think it’ll be great…I feel like he won’t murder us all…probably”. I know, I really sold it. They were hesitant but said ok.

Me and Thierry

It was one of the best experiences we had the whole trip. Thierry was an amazing host. He talked to us about the culture in Vancouver. He himself had had a kidney transplant only one month before we met! He made us a delicious lunch. Turns out he had been a chef and restaurant owner. He even walked us to the Vancouver Aquarium because we had to see it. I loved meeting Thierry. My whole family thought it was one of the best experiences of the trip. We learned so much and made so many awesome memories in one afternoon.

Recently my mom and I had a similar experience. We went on a cruise to the Caribbean. Starting a new job has been super hard and this trip came at the perfect time. Early on in the trip we met Jhon (not a typo). He was as unique as his name. He worked in the buffet dining room as a server. Every time we saw him, we’d ask him how he was. Every time the answer was the same; “Never been better”.

During the trip, we learned that Jhon was new to his job. You would never have known this. We also learned that his wife and 2 year old were back home in the Philippines counting on his income. We learned that he worked 10 hours over night when we slept, and slept when we were out having a great time. Every time we saw Jhon, he’d wave and have a big smile on his face. “Today you’re in Barabados!” He seemed almost more excited than we were. “Barbados is beautiful! The water is so blue!”

Sunset in Barbados

On one of the last days of the trip Jhon told us that he was preparing himself. He told us that his little girl was turning 3 in two weeks and that he was preparing himself because he knew that his heart would be broken that day. It would be the first time he missed her birthday. He knew she was growing up and he was missing it. He was missing it because he had to. He knew what he was doing was important. His daughter’s name is Hope. He was doing this for Hope.

The next day, mom and I went up to the buffet. We see Jhon with big smile, happily waving to us as usual. Hey Jhon! We both loved seeing him every day. “How are you doing today Jhon?” He paused as he always did and with a smile on his face said, “Never been better”.

I don’t know if Jhon or Thierry will ever know how much I appreciate them, or how much they have done for me. I will never forget them. It seems like I’m braver connecting with people when I’m on vacation. That’s a start! Right? Nothing wrong with that. But there are also so many people in my daily life that make my life better and that make me better. Whether they’re a cousin I don’t know very well but who made me feel really important, or another who likes everything I create as soon as I post it, a friend at school who messages me almost every day when I’m sick to ask me how I am, another friend who always prays for me when I need it, a guy who buys me pizza which he knows always makes me feel good, my family who laugh at all my jokes (not an easy task) and who encourage everything I do, or anyone who has spent their time on me just because they wanted to. You may not know it, but you are all immensely important to me. Thank you for being you and for encouraging me to be me. ❤ ❤ ❤

“We didn’t realize we were making memories. We just knew we were having fun.” -Winnie the Pooh

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