Normally, I try to keep things on the upbeat and positive here. We’re chasing a good cause and I like to have a good time, so typically, I’m going to try to write nice things. But after the weekend I had, that’s not going to happen today. I’m teetering on the edge and on the verge of calling off Operation Jack, and while what I write might turn some people off, I’m not going to sit up here and be dishonest with you guys. I’m a regular human being, which means I’m far from perfect. And here, my friends, is my imperfect side.
Let me start by telling you how much Operation Jack means to me. Simply put, it means EVERYTHING. I spent close to a year brainstorming ideas, talking with people, bouncing ideas off people, restructuring my plans, canceling my plans, resurrecting my plans, finalizing my plans, and then doing a ton of dirty work to get to where we are now. And of course, we’re not very far into it. If I keep driving this bus, it’s going to be 17 more months until I can put it in park.
For the past year or so, I’ve been thinking a lot. I’ve tried to change myself a lot to think about myself a lot less. God has had a huge part to do with that. I had a huge shift in my religious outlook, and my faith has carried me in the direction of Operation Jack. If I had to pick a verse that I would apply to Operation Jack, it would be Galatians 6:9. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. That is the only thing keeping me going right now.
Operation Jack means the world to me. For starters, it brings purpose to why God saved my legs when I broke my neck on November 7, 1991. I was never athletic, never fast and I never ran when I was a kid. There’s a reason I have my legs still, and there’s a reason why they turn pretty well. I don’t think God’s main purpose for them is to run a marathon in less than three hours. I’m hopeful they might bring a little bit of purpose to Jack’s autism.
I don’t think words can sufficiently explain what it feels like to have a child struggle like Jack does. Jack will turn 6 next month. I remember my 6th birthday like it was yesterday. I was in the first grade, I had a party at Shakey’s Pizza, my dad bought me a red Schwinn and I got a booth full of presents from my classmates. I’m pretty strong at math and I was able to do long division. Here’s the extent of Jack’s math skills:
He can actually get up to 30, although about 1/3 of the numbers aren’t pronounced very well, and I’m not so sure he understands the concepts of the numbers. It’s pretty tough to think about it. I try not to, because it’s upsetting. He’s in a fog and realistically, he’s probably never going to mainstream. If he was 19 and chose to do drugs and ruined his future, I’d be upset, but I’d know that he did it to himself. But he didn’t do anything. He didn’t ask for this. It affects his siblings. He was supposed to bridge the gap. Instead, he’s the one who steals attention unknowingly. Ava and Benjamin have fun playing with each other, but it’s not the same and while it’s not what we planned for, it’s what we have and we don’t love any of the three any more or less than any of the others.
But it’s painful as a parent to know that your own kid didn’t get a fair shake. And this Operation Jack is a way to maybe make a purpose for his autism, for there to be a reason for what he’s going through and what he’ll go through for the rest of his life. So I’m all-in emotionally. This is a big deal to me. I can make something out of my son. I can put a purpose to it all.
And let’s be realistic: I’m all-in financially, too. We don’t have a lot of spare change, and we’re risking probably about $25K in expenses to make this happen, although I’m pretty optimistic I’ll be able to nickel-and-dime my way to that. Without Operation Jack, I have a ton going on in my world. I’m totally overloaded, and I would say I don’t know how I get to everything, but I don’t get to everything. I’m behind in every area of my life, and raising money for Operation Jack and Train 4 Autism is one of those areas.
Here comes my imperfect side, not that any of that was perfect.
I put about 8 or 9 months of planning into this. Before it launched, I’d estimate I spent about 125 hours on everything, capped off by an all-nighter of programming (do you know how hard it is to write code at 5 a.m. when you got up at 4 a.m. the previous day?). Since then, it’s been at least 30 hours a week of Operation Jack work. I’m in some money, but I’m not worried about it.
I feel like I’m laying a foundation to make something happen. I’m counting on a team of teams. It took a month of pounding the pavement, spreading the word and trying everything I could think of, and I finally got my first team. I was totally excited. But the team wasn’t what it seemed. It looks like the team got an idea from Operation Jack and then decided it wanted to secede from the Union. Call me Abraham Lincoln, because I wasn’t happy. I guess it’s a free country and I can’t control what anybody does, but it hurt me. I’m working so hard at this, and just when I think somebody cares, I’m wrong. And on top of that, I feel like I was deceived by quite a few of the things I was told, and I think that’s the part that really upsets me.
The way I see it, I’m driving a bus to get a bunch of people to the destination, which is Train 4 Autism. I don’t know how to drive a bus. But I’m trying to learn how on the fly and I’m getting a lot of input from a lot of people. If you want to take a taxi, that’s fine. We’re all going to the same place. But don’t confuse the bus driver with deception. If he loses his focus and crashes, a lot of people won’t get to the destination. The driver needs to keep going.
I can’t stomach this kind of thing. I took it really hard. I don’t know if this is going to be the exception or the rule, but I can’t stomach 17 more months of this. I’ve been thinking really hard about quitting this and just walking away. I put this up six months early to see what kind of support I could get. If I end up thinking it’s a no-go, then at least I figure that out before I start buying airline tickets. I was really upset this weekend. In fact, I pulled the site down twice and for the first time since I’ve had my Facebook account, I don’t have a status right now. I just don’t have anything I want to say.
I need to convince myself that it won’t be this way, that I will get the support I’m searching for. I can’t do this alone. I want to build big teams and make a big change for the better and do it for Jack. But if I wanted to do something for Jack and do it all by myself without anybody else, it would be to take him to the park. It wouldn’t be to leave him and the rest of my family 60 times next year. Anyways, I was supposed to get a lot of work done over the weekend, but I was too worked up to concentrate on my code, so until I complete my project, I won’t have time to write another blog.
I get a bible verse texted to me every morning. Yesterday, it was Proverbs 28:25, Selfishness only causes trouble. I think I need to keep that in mind. It’s not about me. And to a degree, it’s not even about Jack. Operation Jack will not succeed with selfishness. I got the following comments from somebody whose advice I take more seriously than just about anybody:
I have a feeling this whole Operation Jack is going to be a huge test in selflessness. You’re going to face lots of disappointment along the way (whether in marathon performances, support, etc.). But you’ll have to keep on keeping on… more so than ever before.
Be prepared to say, I don’t care if I only have 1 person supporting me (let’s say Tiff), and only $10 in support… I’m still gonna run 60 marathons because I love Jack. That alone would be worth it all.
I think he’s right. I know I have the physical strength to for Operation Jack. I just need to stay strong mentally. I’ll need to keep Galatians 6:9 in mind.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.