I was brought to tears in the Bojangles drive through this morning where a green, letter-sized poster next to the ordering speaker featured two girls inside of a shamrock. Bojangles is raising money to combat Muscular Dystrophy, and the “ask” for a dollar donation is currently part of their pitch when you order.

One of the girls featured in the photograph, named Natalie, was listed at 10-years-old. She had sparkling blue eyes full of life. The other girl was her sister, Avery. They stood close and their smiles were the same as my own daughters at that age—full of truth and beauty, unaffected by the wolves of the adult world. And seemingly unaffected by the disease that one of them carried.

[NOTE: Because of my proximity to the man behind the curtain, at this point when I see any pitch for any thing, I’m almost always overcome with the cynicism of backroom communications logistics: The person taking my order doesn’t really care, these girls are probably just models who are posing for a freelance photographer who is likely underpaid but who is grateful for the gig as a way to pay the rent, “Smile girls. Smile bigger! Show the world how special you are!”]

But in this moment, as I stared at the rain-soaked poster curling at the edge with my healthy, beautiful 13-year-old daughter sitting in the passenger seat, I began to cry. No, the smiles on these girls faces were pure.

“Ok, so I have two sausage biscuits and a sweet tea—would you like to add a dollar to help fight MD?”

“Yes.”

I never say yes. But all I could think was that the girl with the blue eyes faced a life of pain, and might even die before her life got going. Before she could *really* live, as an adult. Only, when that photographer snapped the photo I knew that Natalie didn’t care about any of that. At that moment, proudly wearing her sports ribbons around her neck with a photographer telling her how amazing she is, her life was an endless summer day.

Sometimes it’s a burden walking around with wild emotion under your skin. Emotion that aches to latch onto things around you. And yet, it’s like a gift. Life, to me, would be meaningless without deep feeling.

There are days when you have to let your emotions get the best of you, to feel connected to the world. For me, it seems like most days.

***

Jim

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Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.

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