A couple of weeks ago I was asked to put my voice to better use than my usual autumnal complaining about the travails of our Browns. My friends, Jim and Diane Lee, asked me to emcee the fourth annual event they dubbed Allison Palooza back in the fall of 2016 when they decided to do something pretty remarkable. They turned their sorrow and, if you scratch the surface of that sorrow, their anger and resentment at the disease, breast cancer, which took their daughter Allison from them after her 5 1/2 year battle in the first month of 2016 at the age of 31, and turned it into a positive.
The event is what Jim and Diane call a pay-it-forward affair, as apt use of that term as ever could be, given their willingness to turn sorrow and anger into hope. The event raises money for two young cancer warriors each year to help defray their treatment travel expenses.
Both small and large donations from individuals and businesses for the event held in the LCC gym this past Saturday made the evening a success. The house was very strong, comprised of both those Powerball-winning lucky enough to have known Allison, as I wrote in my column about her in January of 2016, and those who didn’t know her well but came to support such a worthy cause.
The speaker for the event was Sam Glenn, a nationally known motivational speaker. He recently was named one of the top 100 speakers working the circuit today. Given the charitable intentions of Saturday’s affair, Glenn generously cut his usual speaking fee by more than half.
A little over two decades ago, Glenn was running a business inherited from his grandfather, that is, until a catastrophic fire not only destroyed the business but also Glenn’s desire to achieve. He was essentially homeless, often sleeping in his car or in borrowed spaces, until a chance encounter at an all-you-can-eat restaurant with one of the Mount Rushmore figures in the world of motivational speaking, Zig Ziglar, changed his life. The encounter turned into a friendship and a chance for Glenn to hear a real kick-in-the-attitude, good old Southern talkin’ to by the man raised in Coffee County, Alabama.
Since then, Glenn has not only crafted a highly successful speaking career as someone known as “The Attitude Guy,” but he has also authored 20 books on the overlapping subjects of attitude and self-motivation.
Glenn’s message was both consistent with the positivity demonstrated by Allison during her fight and so very unique. You see, despite having no formal art training, Glenn is also a talented artist, and in the hour before the talk was scheduled to begin, I watched him do a beautiful oil painting of a tree that he would donate along with three others he’d brought to be auctioned off at the event.
Then, even more remarkably, he showed his ability to multitask by painting a portrait of a lion’s face and mane as he delivered his talk on the power of positivity and the importance of attitude, messaging aided by a series of humorous self-anecdotes. As for my artistic abilities, let’s just say I’m stickman-challenged, so I was particularly astonished by his moving so seamlessly from the in-progress artwork to the front of the stage without losing the thread of his presentation. He also donated this painting for auction.
As for the choice of the lion, there was a particular connection to Allison, as her father Jim recalls.
“Allison also loved art and did a lion painting. So when we told Sam about it, he thought that would be the perfect painting for him to do to symbolize the strength she showed during her battle,” he said.
Among the messages that resonated with me was when Glenn simplified the choices we all have in how we handle the adversities that life so often presents. In such times, Glenn said, we can either get bitter or get better. And, that particular theme of choosing the better over the bitter seemed so very appropriate for so many who came to remember Allison Renee Lee Buehler.
As Jim reminded me, it was Allison who told her doctors at The James in Columbus that she had every intention of one day appearing on the label of a Smucker jelly jar as an octogenarian, so they’d better buckle down and figure out how to get her well.
And, perhaps, by showing two parents with such heavy hearts and so many anxieties how to choose the better, Allison passed that on to those who loved her first, who’ve somehow managed to take what I believe to be life’s greatest injustice, when a child predeceases a parent, and turn it into an annual event to wipe out the bitter and replace it with the better.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at email@example.com.