Life Lessons from a Chef and a Girl

Life Lessons from a Chef and a Girl |

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
(Pablo Picasso)

I keep learning one wonderful life lesson over and over again; the more I give the more I receive.

Last January, my wife and I were invited to attend The Wish Ball for Make-A-Wish® Central and Western North Carolina. It was a fancy “Blue Tie” event. I rented a tuxedo and my wife wore a beautiful gown. We were happy to celebrate the good works of Make-A-Wish. We were in a giving mood.

The culmination of the event was an auction to raise money for the Wish Kids. We decided to put all our charitable eggs into one delicious basket: we were bidding on a celebrity chef dinner in our home. Let the bidding begin…

$500… $750… $1,000… Just a really expensive dinner, right?
$1,500… $1,750… $2,000… It’s OK… It’s for a great cause!
$2,500… $3,000… We are determined to see it through…

The bidding didn’t stop until it reached $5,000. Finally, we “won” the dinner. We thought we were doing a great thing by giving so much to such an amazing cause.

Due to scheduling challenges, we had to wait nearly a year for our celebrity chef dinner. Finally, on November 7, 2015, two beautiful spirits blew into our home with seven or eight bags of groceries. Almost immediately, I could sense that we were about to receive far more than we had given.

The first, and certainly the loudest, spirit was in the form of Chef Lou Petrozza, the runner up on Season 4 of Hell’s Kitchen (Gordon Ramsey’s cooking challenge show).

Chef Lou had attended the Wish Ball in January 2014. That year, a Make-A-Wish kid had drawn a Hell’s Kitchen themed art piece that was framed and featured during the live auction. The bidding was heavy. The owners of Lake Norman Chrysler Dodge Jeep eventually bought it for $2500. Chef Lou just had to meet the artist. As soon as the bidding ended, he made a beeline toward her and her parents.

That’s when he first met Shelby. He didn’t need to tell her his name. She has been a fan of the show since day one, and thought he should have been the clear winner of season four. The artwork she had auctioned that night had been inspired by her Wish visit to the set of Hell’s Kitchen the previous summer.

Shelby Purvis was the second, and certainly the sweetest, spirit that blew into our home that night.

Life Lessons from a Chef and a Girl |

Shelby was diagnosed with leukemia on April 3, 2013 – just weeks after her Sweet 16 birthday. She had been a cheerleader and volleyball player and always a healthy girl. Over the weeks leading to her diagnosis, she suffered with joint aches, fever, and vomiting. The disease quickly ravaged her body. She shrank from a fit 112-pound teenager to an emaciated 88-pound bag of bones.

The next 847 days were like a hurricane of hospitalizations, surgeries, chemotherapy, bills, insurance battles, and fund-raisers (by family, friends, and even strangers). The challenges for her and her family were immense. The outpouring of love was overwhelming.

Her dad told me, “No matter how bad a day was, how harsh the chemo was, how sad the news was, Shelby’s radiant smile was always there.” That’s what I noticed when she walked into our home, two and a half years after her diagnosis, a healthy and happy teenager that lights up a room with her smile and gentle nature.

Although Shelby was with us only a short while that night, she made a big impact on me. Learning about how she faced her battle with such grace filled me with admiration. Hearing about her continued commitment to support charitable causes, both during and after her sickness, reminded me of the power of gratitude. Her soft, beautiful spirit lit up my home.

Unlike Shelby’s quietness, Chef Lou’s spirit explodes out of his chest and yells, “I AM A CHEF!” He was with us for nearly eight hours. He cooked. He laughed. He taught my daughter how to flip crepes. He told great stories. And he served amazingly delicious food. Chef Lou reminded me how beautiful and effortless life can be when you listen to your heart and do the work you were meant to do. He is a chef through and through.

Shelby and Chef Lou were unexpected gifts that my family and I enjoyed immensely. It certainly is true, the more I give in this beautiful life, the more I receive.

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