All Heart

Have you ever noticed that our Facebook pages end up looking like a highlight reel of our finest moments? It’s like an ESPN Top 10 every week. And why shouldn’t it be? After all we get to be the authors, directors, and producers of our own pages. We naturally want to show our “friends” all of the wonderful things that we do, what great parents we are, and only those moments when we look our best. But how real is that? How often do we post those moments that we’re not so proud of? I know that at least for me, I tend to avoid showing those not so flattering moments.

Just thinking back over the last couple of weeks, I’ve posted a picture of my youngest on my shoulders placing the angel on our Christmas tree. I posted a blog talking about the importance of Christmas. There have been a ton of pictures of me helping to make Dusty Hardee’s Dream come true in Shreveport, LA. If you knew nothing about me other than what I posted about myself or what others have posted about me on social media, then I may seem like a guy that has it all together. You may think that I am always smiling, always serving others, and the front runner for Father of the Year award. Truth be told…I actually am smiling most of the time! However, I am definitely not always serving others and I can assure you that I’m not going to win any awards for my parenting skills! You will probably never see this on my Facebook page, but I have many moments of selfishness. I have many moments where I think that this world revolves around me and what I want at that particular moment. As a matter of fact, it would be much easier and take far less time for me to put together a Not Top 10 list than a Top 10 list.

So often our views of people are formulated by what we read about them in social media aren’t they? As much as we’d like to think our lives are made up of nothing but highlight reels, that’s probably not reality. Well, there is one exception….Dusty Hardee! Dusty’s page #CardsforDusty is not a highlight reel. Ladies and gentlemen, I can now testify that he is exactly what his Facebook page portrays him to be….ALL HEART!!

This weekend I got to spend some time with a young man that has become an overnight sensation! Maybe you’ve heard of him? Maybe you’re one of the 12 thousand (yes…12 thousand) people that have followed his Facebook page, #CardsforDusty, over the last few weeks? If you are then you already know the story of Dusty Hardee. If not, then you need to know that Dusty is a 20-year old young man that suffered a stroke at birth, brought on by viral meningitis. Although you’d never know it by looking at him, the trauma to his brain left him with a laundry list of developmental and physical challenges including epilepsy. Dusty has worked extremely hard and as a result has been able to overcome many obstacles that doctors said were insurmountable. Dusty has turned a story of tragedy into a story of hope and inspiration. And now that story is being broadcast all over the world via Facebook!

When I first read Dusty’s story on Facebook, I was fascinated by his big heart and his decision to give away his Christmas so that others could enjoy theirs. I joined the rest of Dusty’s army in anticipation of updates about his new found fame and other stories of this guy’s acts of selfless giving. If you’re looking for the “other side” of the story, let me save you some time…there’s not one! Dusty’s reputation of selfless service and loving consideration of others is spot on. That is the true character of this young man, on and off the camera!

I first witnessed Dusty’s heart after we arrived in Alexandria, LA. We had just flown in from Charlotte and picked up our rental car. We had about an hour and a half drive to Shreveport and the rain had already set in. As we pulled away from the airport, we passed a man walking along the side of the road. Honestly, I didn’t even notice the man until Dusty said…”We should stop and give him a ride.” I looked in my rearview mirror and thought that was very kind of Dusty, but I didn’t stop. As much as I would have loved to have done that, I just couldn’t risk the safety of Dusty and his mother.

On Saturday, I told Dusty that we wanted to invite him to a big Dream On 3 party (our 2015 Dream Gala) and that he would be our Guest of Honor. He smiled that now legendary Dusty Hardee smile and said…”Can I bring Jonah?” I looked at Patti, Dusty’s mom, and she explained to me that Jonah was a 10-year old boy that Dusty had met only a week ago. Jonah had survived a horrible accident that left him with 3rd and 4th degree burns and injuries that covered over 80% of his body. Dusty and Jonah became friends instantly and their shared stories of overcoming adversity have bonded them together for life. Dusty was certainly excited about coming to the Gala, but his first thought was “how can I share this gift with someone else?”

On the last day, Dusty started to realize that this Dream Experience was coming to an end. He asked me, “so what’s next?” I explained to Dusty that we wanted to show him that dreams really can come true and now it’s up to him to continue dreaming and believing that he can live out his dreams no matter what. Dusty smiled and told me that he wanted to help make other kids’ dreams come true!

Pull out the things that are outside of Dusty’s control, and his life is truly a highlight reel! We can all learn something from this young man. His brain injury may have delayed him academically, but his understanding of life is superior to most.

Dusty Hardee is the real deal. Dusty Hardee is ALL HEART!