During a visit to South Africa last year I managed to squeeze in couple days in Joburg before flying back to London. Naturally a visit to Joost and the rest of team at the J9 Foundation was in order.
As I pulled up in his driveway in Dainfern, I found myself paused for a few moments. There was Joost parked up in his wheelchair on his veranda enjoying the bright morning sun, but he didn't look like he was having a moment of inner peace, no...something seemed ridiculously funny as he was in absolute hysterics of laughter, so much that it seemed he barely noticed my walking up to greet him. I asked him what the hell was so funny and with a slight nod of his eyes and head, he indicated towards the TV through the sliding doors of his TV room just off the stoep. It was some sort of Youtube type clip of okes in a hilarious bar brawl that got me chuckling away within a few seconds.I sat down and Johan (part of the office team) got us a couple glasses of ice cold lemonade whilst Joost and I started chatting. As you may have seen in video clips or on TV, Joost’s speech is quite impaired and slow which takes a bit of concentration to understand what he's saying, so conversations are not like a conversation you and I may have. After we got the usual “How you been doings?” out the way I started to tell him about my future plans, advised him of my ideas for future challenges and campaigns that I wanted to do in support of the J9 Foundation (in case you aren't aware, it’s the foundation Joost set up to help people who are also living with MND)After about an hour of usual banter and a few laughs, it was time for me to start heading off. I said my goodbyes. I drove out the driveway, but whilst driving down the road I become very overwhelmed with thought. I stopped the car and paused for a few minutes.Now I’ve known Joost for a few years now since I got involved with doing things for the Foundation. He’s always been a pinnacle of inspiration and provided me with a boost of mental strength when the times got tough during my climb up Kilimanjaro and the walk from Joburg to Durban, (both in aid of the foundation), but what hit me was something on a different level. What went through my mind was this…There is a guy who’s entire world is collapsing around him, yet he physically cannot do anything about it. He is literally completely trapped as a prisoner in his own body. He cannot do anything on his own without help from others, from the viewpoint of the average person, his life must be an absolute and complete mess. But here’s the thing…what I witnessed when I pulled up that morning, was Joost completely on his own, he wasn’t feeling sorry for himself or beating himself up thinking about his situation and other drama. He was sitting there laughing his head off and even during our conversation comes across as someone where at times you actually forget about his predicament in a small way.I really think we can learn something from Joost. Gosh, to see such remarkable power of the human spirit, his “I'm not giving up for sh*t” attitude, his relentless approach to appreciating every moment he has been given whilst at the same time being in one of the worst possible positions a human being can be in...and yet he’s still smiling. This is unbelievable strength and will power. An absolute phenomenal inspiration to us all.When you look at what he’s got to deal with, it really does make you start thinking about your own issues and starts to put them into perspective, and in many ways shrinks them down to a point where you start to question yourself thinking, "Look at him and the terrible situation he is in, and yet he can still crack a smile, from that perspective does it really warrant the amount of worry I have for my problems?"With that in mind, you’ll probably notice that the magnitude of our problems begin to shrink in size quite a bit, followed by a sense of appreciation for the life that we have, and to be able to do things that we may do with your families that we otherwise take for granted.Just think about that for a few moments and let it sink in…As I pulled off again, I’d be lying if I said my eyes hadn’t welled up from that experience. I shook my head with a massive amount of appreciation for that moment.
Today, 20th February 2016, is Joostie’s 45th birthday.
Now the odds that Joost faced at reaching this age after initially being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease were incredibly slim which makes this such a milestone on so many levels. Since being diagnosed, he has charged through limitation after limitation, driven through boundary after boundary. He’s taken a massive beating, his body may be tired, yet he still is able to figuratively pick himself right back up and present you with a smile like an absolute boss! He’s gone far far beyond any expectation, and I personally believe that the sheer strength of his mind has played a major role with him charging on like the trooper that he is. Never giving up hope that even today, a cure could be found. My personal belief is that Joost is going nowhere, there's no chance, because that oke, is not going to give up fighting, not for anything!Joostie, Happy Birthday my bru, you are one REMARKABLE human being with such remarkable strength, you are an incredible inspiration to so many, where that inspiration flows continuously on through so many people. Thank you so much for what you’ve done for so many people who fight MND every day…and above all, thank you for not giving up… Happy Birthday my boy! 🙂
Guys, as a little birthday present to Joost, please could you give a simple “Like” to the J9 Foundation Facebook Pages to help keep the fire burning and raging on and be kept in the loop with updates and ways in which you can get involved to help fight this relentless disease.Maybe even post a little birthday wish on the Facebook pages wall or comments to give him some words of encouragement, you know he'd love it.It's with your support and others, that people who fight this terrible disease day by day, are able to have a better quality of life which makes a remarkable difference for someone who completely cannot help themselves.So please give a quick and simple LIKE belowFor people in SA: For people in the UK: (We've recently launched J9 Foundation UK!)
Please share this amongst your friends on Facebook so we can really get him as much support as we can for his birthday!
Check that smile!.... Joost and Marky during the Post Long Walk Press Conference in Johannesburg August 2014 - Photo Credit: Bongiwe Gumede - Beeld
THUMBS UP! 🙂