Using Your Trials To Help Others | Hope Works

So I want you to picture this. I am strapped in this
awkwardly tight harness beneath my costume that is
painfully digging into me. My hair is cut in a messy pixie,
and it’s especially disheveled. And I have brown makeup
wiped across my face to look like dirt. I am ready. It is time to take my
maiden voyage to Neverland in front of an audience in
the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah, for the first time. I trust in the techs who
are operating the fly system backstage. I trust in my months of
rehearsal, the lyrics, the notes, the
choreography, the costumes. And everything goes
off without a hitch. The pixie dust works its
magic, we make it to Neverland, we live our grand adventures,
have a sword fight with Captain Hook, and I deliver
the children safely home to their beds in London. And the audience
erupts onto their feet in energetic applause. Playing the role of Peter
Pan was a dream come true for this five-foot-one
rough-and-tumble amateur gymnast. It was the perfect role for me. Such a timeless story, and
a magical season in my life. My firstborn daughter, Lucy,
was 18 months old at the time. And she became obsessed
with all things Peter Pan. She’d come to the show
dressed as Tinker Bell, and for some reason her favorite
character was Captain Hook. [LAUGHTER] My husband
was genuinely concerned that she would grow up to
only like the bad boys. That is how much she
would squeal with delight when he came on stage. My role as Peter Pan was
made possible and meaningful because of connections–from
the relationship with my darling Lost Boys to the connection
I felt with the audience, and the literal connection
with Daniel Simons, the talented and very
capable tech director, who had me connected to
the flying cable system, attached to that uncomfortable
harness that he would pull backstage. And he would lift my entire
body weight, causing me to fly. Queen B–not Beyonce, Brene
Brown–says that “connection is the energy that exists between
people when they feel seen, heard, and valued, when they
can give and receive without judgment, and when they derive
sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Did you hear those words? “Seen, heard, and valued.” Do you feel seen, heard, and
valued for who you truly are? In my opinion, often
connection with others is a commodity that holds
more value than the top traded commodities in the world. And it is a commodity
that we are starving for. I love the idea that the
opposite of hate isn’t love, it’s connection. We may not believe
the same things, vote for the same people,
speak the same language, be the same age,
but there is always something that can connect us. So tonight I want to show
you that vulnerability as a catalyst for
connection is not only possible, but essential to our
well-being and to our survival. So come with me now as
I take you backstage, and I wipe off my
makeup, and I step away from the lights
and the applause. And I sit at my
dressing room station, and I look in the mirror. Little did I know that
in a few short months, I would be exiled from
Neverland forever, and I would be forced to grow up
in a very real and painful way. And no amount of pixie dust
could ever get me back. On a beautiful spring
day in May of 2008, I headed out the door with my
Captain Hook-loving daughter. And I remember being so proud
because I had taken the time to prepare snacks for
church–some animal crackers, and I sliced up
a big, red apple. And we made it to church,
and we sat in our pew. And she was being so restless. We had to take her energetic
bundle out to the foyer. It was tantrum of 2008;
you may have read about it in the history books. [LAUGHTER] And when we realized she
wasn’t going to settle down, we decided to leave
a little early. I strapped Lucy in her car
seat, and then I twisted around and I handed her a Tupperware
of the thinly sliced apples. And just as I turn the
key in the ignition, I could hear her choking. Quick as lightning, I exited
the car, I opened her door, I unbuckled her, and I
yelled for my husband, who was across the parking lot. He raced toward
us, and as he began administering the
Heimlich maneuver, he assured me that
everything would be fine. How could it not be? And that’s when her big
blueberry eyes locked with mine, and a look
of panic and confusion washed over her face. Luckily, the fire station is
right next door to our church building in Park City, and I
saw my husband race with Lucy in his arms. And I saw her go limp. And when he arrived,
the door was locked. And I began screaming, and
people flooded out from the church building–medical
professionals, doctors, nurses, the head of Summit
County Search and Rescue. Someone called 911. And I lay on the cement, losing
all the feeling in my limbs, and I went into shock. The paramedics did
eventually arrive. The Life Flight
helicopter landed, and they whisked
my daughter away. And it was as if
Daniel, who I trusted, who had been flying me across
the stage, just cut that rope. And I plummeted
to the stage floor in a heap of utter despair. And just when I thought I
couldn’t fall any further, I held my little
Tinker Bell in my arms four days later in the hospital. And I lay in the bed
with her, and my husband wheeled us down the hallway to
the yellow line on the floor that I wasn’t allowed to cross. And I handed my daughter over so
they could harvest her organs. Her liver went to a
six-month-old baby girl, and her kidneys went to a
35-year-old father of four. And I am intrinsically connected
to these other humans in a very tangible way. And the question I get
asked more than any other is “How did you survive this?” First of all, it
has not been pretty. And when asked to put our
pain and grief into words, the only word I can think
of is “unspeakable.” But because I had the courage
to speak my unspeakable, I experienced connections
deeper than I’ve ever known. I felt seen. I felt heard. And it gave others
permission to do the same and to speak their
unspeakable to me. Pain is a powerful connector. And my connection
with others is truly what saved my life when
my daughter lost hers. And now because I have shared
my unspeakable with you, we are all connected. And it is an honor. Another way to create
connection involves your talents and gifts. I want you to picture a woman
with hair about my length. But her hair is blonder, if you
can imagine that, and bigger. OK, now just a
little bit bigger. And then like add a
“bump it,” and some– [LAUGHTER] OK, do you have it? You picture it? OK, this woman’s name
is Jenny, and Jenny is one of eight children. And five of the
eight children were born with a very
rare genetic disorder called Wolfram syndrome. And as the oldest
child, Jenny watched as her parents cared for
and buried five children. When my little Lucy was in
the hospital for those four sacred and gut-wrenching days,
Jenny showed up on day three with a beautiful
white burial dress that she had sewn herself. It was the perfect size. She didn’t ask if we
wanted her to make it. We weren’t even
sure at that point what the outcome would be. But Jenny knew. She had done this five times. She knew exactly what
to do, from the burial dress to the balloons to
the flowers, the luncheon. She knew exactly what to do. One of my favorite quotes
from Neal A. Maxwell: “Recall the [star of] Bethlehem? It was in its [exact,] precise
orbit long before it … shone. We are likewise placed in
human orbits to illuminate.” Jenny was placed in
the precise orbit to illuminate me in my
darkness of despair. She was in my life at the
exact time I needed her. And all of the gifts that Jenny
had acquired throughout her life–her sewing, her
empathy–there’s nothing this woman can’t do. She built her own house. They were all given
as gifts to me. And we are now
intrinsically connected. I want you to think
about your gifts and how you can use them
to be a gift to others. Not only did Jenny sew that
burial dress for our Lucy; she saved part of the
fabric just in case I might have another
little girl someday, so that she could sew a
blessing dress for her. And as for her
hair, I figured out why she has to do it
so big and so blond. It’s because she has
to hide her halo. Use your gifts to be a gift. We all have incredible
stories and experiences that will forge connections. It’s been 10 years, 11
years since Lucy died, and I still can’t fly. But I am starting to dance
again, which brings me to my third point and another
way we can create connection. Like most of us, I was
in my kitchen dancing, filming myself, and immediately
posting it to Instagram. We’ve all been there. I was just being myself. And a few minutes
after I posted it, I got this message
from a college friend I used to perform with
named [INAUDIBLE].. And she said, “You
are so dumb and silly, and my kids and I are
sitting around on the couch watching you. You’re a fool. And we’re getting such
a kick out of it.” And I’m like, “Oh,
stop, thank you.” [LAUGHTER] And I
was so surprised that just by being
my goofy self, I was creating this moment
for her and her kids. So I had an idea. “I’m going to do another dance. [SINGING] ‘Oh, I want
to dance with somebody.’ And I’m going to tag her in it. And I’m going to tell her it’s
dedicated to her and her kids.” So I did it. And she messaged me again,
and was like, “We love it! They thought they were
so cool and special, and we saw you
being dumb again.” But she unleashed a
beast, because it gave me the idea to take this
silly dancing in my kitchen to another level. So I told all my Instagram
followers to message me something positive that
happened to them that week, and I would dedicate a dance to
them in my Instagram stories. And thus Positive
Pants Dance was born. [LAUGHTER] So every Thursday
I have a virtual dance party. And I celebrate all
the positive things happening around the world. And I get so many requests. People love watching
my crazy nonsense and listening to
the upbeat music, and they love reading about a
stranger in Oklahoma who just beat breast cancer, or a guy
in Colorado who just got a job offer, or a mom who
changed her last diaper after a long potty
training battle. And all of this just because
I decided to be myself for the world to see. And I have never
regretted being myself. We can only connect
to what is real. It’s such a miracle that I
can dance again, isn’t it? And that I can feel joy
again, and that we’re all connected in so many ways. So my hope tonight is that if
you are silently suffering, you will use these
tools in order to gain the commodity that can
heal our hearts and our homes. Speak the unspeakable
to someone, please. Use your gifts to be a gift. And don’t try to prove yourself. Just try to be yourself. After our little Tinker
Bell left us for Neverland, and we came home from the
hospital to an empty house, we found the courage to have
two more children–who you saw earlier with Jenny as a
baby, and our son, Peter. And I may jokingly call myself
the riffraff of Park City because we don’t drive a Tesla. [LAUGHTER] And my kids thought
that our Toyota minivan was a Tesla. Who am I to correct them? [LAUGHTER] And my flights to
the grocery store and basketball practice certainly don’t
end in standing ovations. But I consider myself
wealthy beyond compare because I am so rich in the
commodity of connection. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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