Really touched today by story of Sarah Jane

Anyone who knows me or has been around me over the past, well, 32-plus years knows my thoughts on charities. While I have never had anything against them at all, it’s the giving of my money to them that I never got around to actually doing. You see, I had a pretty humble youth. Later in life, I was a poor college student and struggling journalist. I’ve lived on my own (with some help from the parents, mind you) since the fall of 1995. For 10 years, I struggled financially as most of my friends flourished with well-paying jobs. I’m living proof that it’s really difficult to make a career out of an English degree.

Flash forward to the present, and I’m now doing pretty well. There’s room for growth, yes, but it’s nothing like the late 1990s and early “aughts.” I now have a master’s degree, a great job, a side gig teaching college classes and a wife who also earns an income. I also have a son.

Having a son has really changed my outlook on helping others. For example, I recently bought overpriced candy bars to help seventh-graders pay for their basketball jerseys. I even had a 2-3 minute conversation with the girls, teasing them about how I could head back inside Schnucks and buy three candy bars for the price of one of theirs. I still bought three of theirs. Best (and only) $2 candy bars I’ve ever tasted.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that I was really touched today. A little over a year ago, I helped on a video for a client and the editing took place at SmithLee Productions in Maplewood. Overseeing the project was Dave Smith (to my hockey friends: this is not “Diving Dave” Smith who used to play for the Black Bears and mysteriously fall like he had been shot every time a stick went near him). Dave owns SmithLee. He was great to work with, and after the project I agreed to meet him for lunch a few months later.

During that lunch, I learned about his daughter, Sarah Jane. She suffers from seizures. Originally able to walk and talk, she sustained major injuries from a five-hour epileptic seizure in 2004. She’s currently recovering from an operation to rebuild her hip joints so she will one day be able to stand up, ride a special tricycle and walk using a special machine. The activities, according to Dave, will help extend Sarah Jane’s life.

Hearing and reading about Sarah Jane and her progress and challenges has moved me like never before, probably because our little Oliver has given me a new perspective on parenting and children. You never know what life will throw at you, and having a child has really softened me up when it comes to relating to other parents.

In an e-mail from Dave today I was informed about a trivia night and silent auction that will be held next Thursday to benefit Sarah’s medical fund. Details can be found by clicking here. You can also find more information about Sarah Jane on her Web site by clicking here. It’s worth checking out, and it would mean a lot if you’d forward the links along to anybody who might be interested in helping Dave and his family.

What do you think? Am I becoming a “softie?” Can any of you new parents out there relate? What about my fellow English majors?

48 thoughts on “Really touched today by story of Sarah Jane

  1. Hi Justin,I just found your blog via Valerie. I’m not sure if you’ll remember me or not, but I was also an English major at Fontbonne. I live in South St. Louis, have two boys and teach art at Ladue High School. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. Congratulations on your new little boy. Valerie and I had boys on the same day, last August 10th. It’s a blast seeing these little guys grow. You’re in for an amazing year. I don’t have a blog, but I have a photo stream on Flickr. You can check out my photos at :

  2. Hey, Patricia, nice to hear from you. In all honesty, I couldn’t place you until I saw your picture on Flickr. Now it’s all come back to me. My gosh, it has been over 10 years, hasn’t it. I also have put the so-called “two and two” together and realize, now, that you’re the friend mentioned on occasion on Valerie’s blog (the identical birth date of your boys gave it away!).Your sons are adorable, by the way. Thanks for sharing the link. After posting this, I will shoot you an e-mail so we have each other’s contact information. Talk to you soon …

  3. Hi Justin, Becoming a parent opens us up to a world outside of ourselves. You are becoming the person you were always meant to be: caring, generous, involved and aware. Our love to all the little Sarah Janes and their families as they struggle, without complaining, just to have the best life they can have. Love you!

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