How a 5 Minute Video from a 16 Year Old Girl Changed my Life


I have a very powerful life story to share with you all that is not my own.  It’s about a friend of mine named Mary.  If you’re looking for inspiration and only ever read one of my blog posts, please make it this one.  I think it might change the way you look at your life differently, just like it has mine.

Okay?  Good!  Read on… I know I’ve mentioned my chronic pain group on Facebook (“Attitude of Gratitude with Chronic Pain” or AoG) ad nauseum.  I guess you could say between that and “Gratitude Addict” they are my full-time jobs so while my pain/illness does NOT define me, the work I do because of it is a huge part of my life.  And I love it so much so that’s what I write about!

My co-admin of the group Jackie (and roommate from rehab – yes, really!) and I started doing these live broadcast interviews for AoG a few months ago and have been having a ton of fun with it!  We set out to find people who will inspire us and give us hope for meaningful, serene and grateful lives while living in these bodies that don’t always cooperate. We have been seeking out doctors, authors, spiritual teachers, artists…basically anyone who will help us on our quest for gratitude!

Since our ‘no-complaining’ rule isn’t exactly mainstream for chronic pain groups, (for more about our unique group, read my previous blog post, “Chronic pain, gratitude, and the secret to life?”) it requires someone pretty special who “gets it” for us to want to interview. Jackie and I even interviewed each other to kick off the series! While trying to find others who really “get it” to ask to interview, it hit us – while we may have some awesome people outside the group that we can talk to (and we have had some fantastic interviews so far!), we also have a whole slew of some pretty amazing people right inside our group too!  And they all “get it!” (or at least they’re trying to.) Problem is…to date we have about 1,500 members!  So for Jackie and I to interview them all would be impossible.(Not that having 1,500 members is a problem…but you know what I mean!)

So we came up with this great idea to do short mini-interviews that we named “AoG 5-Minute Grati-Tales!” (brilliant, right?  I know!……we are geniuses!…..just sayin’ 😉)

We told them that anyone interested and for a limited time, Jackie and I would either interview them for 5 minutes, or they could submit their own

We told them that anyone interested and for a limited time, Jackie and I would either interview them for 5 minutes, or they could submit their own 5 minute video! So we’ve been scheduling interviews and

We told them that anyone interested and for a limited time, Jackie and I would either interview them for 5 minutes, or they could submit their own 5 minute video! So we’ve been scheduling interviews and

We told them that anyone interested and for a limited time, Jackie and I would either interview them for 5 minutes, or they could submit their own 5 minute video! So we’ve been scheduling interviews and re-scheduling interviews (schedules with peeps in pain and/or illness don’t always go on as originally planned.  thankfully..we are all understanding of each other when it comes to that!). Then we got a very special submission of a video made at home by one of our young members, Mary Ní Ghallachóir.

Mary getting loved by boy band Hometown

Mary is 16, from Ireland, and joined AoG back in November.   It absolutely KILLS Jackie & I when we see the young ones come into our group (although my sweet friend Jackie herself is 27 and has been in pain since 15.)  It’s horrible that ANY humans have to live with the struggles of pain & illness, but when you see a young person come in….it rips your heart out.

Being that AoG is a closed group, I cannot disclose any of the discussions that we have in there, but almost immediately since joining..Mary has been a bright light and a shining example of what it means to LIVE with struggle and adversity.  Almost immediately after joining, she submitted an article that she wrote for “The Mighty” for a special file we have in the group devoted to featuring published works of our members.

 The name of her article was entitled “To the Doctor Who Told me to be Thankful for my Diagnosis” (don’t go reading it yet….bear with me first…) and it was a very positive, uplifting account of what she has been through with multiple surgeries and her rehabilitations afterwards. A few things struck me when first reading the article:
  • This girl has turned a negative into a positive in a big way!
  • Look at how this girl adapts to her new situations!
  • Look at the fundraisers she has organized to raise money for her hospitals!
  • I wonder if she’s ever had a pity party like I have.
  • I’m so glad she joined the group.
  • I can learn a lot from her.
  • I bet the others can too.

So then months go by and it’s obvious to the group that this girl is the real deal as far as her enormous attitude of gratitude and I learn

Mary with TV host Maia Dunphy helping to raise money for Temple Street Foundationquickly that there is noquickly that there is noquickly that there is no

quickly that there is no age-difference when it comes to living with struggles.

  • Whether it’s physical or emotional – pain is pain.
  • Whether you’re 47 years old or 16 – struggle is struggle.

Okay…back to the video.  When Jackie and I announced this new endeavor to the group, Mary messaged me with a few questions right away and was so excited to make her own video.  I admired her energy and enthusiasm and tell myself that if only I weren’t sick I would have that kind of… oh wait…she’s sick too.  Argument denied! 😜 When I got her video submission a few days later, I watched it immediately.  And then I watched it again.  And again.  It affected me so deeply to the point of tears…..NOT because I pity her – because I don’t.  Her video is not even remotely trying to get pity.  That’s not her message. She doesn’t say a word in it, yet the message is clear…LOUD AND CLEAR.

Oh…and I submitted it to the group after remembering that this was not a video with a message meant just for me (ha!).  And now I will share it with all of you.  Please watch, then read on:

I know…I know…I just watched again too.

So now you’ve been given this gift from Mary.  What are you going to do with it?I’m passing it on to all of you.  This 5-minute guide to life!  “How to Be Happy When Life Throws You Curveballs.”

Mary with her new handbike!

Acceptance, gratitude, service for others…that’s the message I get from this video.  I’m going to keep it and try to remember to watch it when I’m scared, angry, or sad about my curveballs.I asked Mary if it would be alright to share it outside of the group.  I told her I had a feeling it might go viral and asked her if she was okay with that.  She and her mom both graciously agreed.

Pass it on.  Make it viral.

Don’t you feel as if the world can use Mary’s message right now?   I sure do!  What if every human were to watch it?  Maybe there’s someone out there who doesn’t know how they will make it through the day.  They need to watch this and hear Mary’s message.

At the end of the video, Mary shows examples of things/activities that she does today while she waits for her next surgery.  She then holds up a sign saying something about now doing ordinary teenage things as she waits.

Hi! I’m Mary! I’m just doing ordinary teenage things like ORGANIZING FUNDRAISERS!!! lol Way to go, Mary.

Mary, I would like to let you know that there is nothing “ordinary” about the things you do today – not for a teenager and not even for a grown adult.  Thank you for blessing us with this gift.

To Mary’s mom:  I hope you know how much Mary loves you and appreciates everything you have done for her.  I wouldn’t break my confidence with her by sharing what she wrote to me about you, but you can trust that you are her hero.

 Okay…now…I’m going to share with you all that article I mentioned in the beginning of the post that Mary wrote for “The Mighty.”  Now that you’ve watched the video, you will read it differently knowing what you now know.  Below it, you can find an open letter I wrote to anyone reading the article plus a special message” I included just for that doctor who told her to be thankful.  (tee hee)  I tried posting it as a comment on “The Mighty” at the end of her article, but it wouldn’t post.  I’ll take that as a sign that it was supposed to go here instead.



An Open letter to readers of the article “To the Doctor Who Told Me to ‘Be Thankful’ for My Diagnosis”  by Mary Gallagher published in “The Mighty” 2016

Dear reader,

As the founder and co-admin of the Facebook group “Attitude of Gratitude with Chronic Pain,” I attest to the fact that the amazing girl who wrote this article really IS as spectacular as she sounds in these eloquent words. For someone so young, she certainly gives perspective to many of us in the group including myself, and I am 3 times her age.

Last night, Mary submitted a video of herself as part of an optional ‘project’ our group is doing in which we have 5 minutes to tell the other members of our group about us and about our pain/illness/struggle/gratitude (we call it “5-minute Grati-Tales”). The effect that this video has had on me (and others in the group) has been profound.

She shows herself in various stages of her surgeries and disabilities and….I’m telling you….in one photo she will be shown intubated……in the next she has the biggest smile on her face as she’s hanging with her friends who came to visit her in the hospital….and in the next, she’s playing her flute, backpipes, and a drum (talented girl!) for the camera!

She shows photos of her doing her favorite things including performing in musical theatre and playing Gaelic football. Mary does not show these things in the video to portray sadness or to show what has been lost in her young life, but she shows them as current loves and shows how she adapts to be able to still do many of them in her current state.

Mary shows how she has started wheelchair basketball, handcycling which is a very cool bicycle pedaled with her arms and….oh yeah….re-learning how to walk 3 times…….minor detail. (wink)

Being able to adapt to new situations depending on how we are feeling on any given day is something that we with chronic pain are experts at, but I must admit…it takes me a whole lot longer to come to terms with it and get over my pity party than it does for Mary who pridefully shows herself bopping to the beat while on crutches in a fundraising music video for one of the hospitals that cared for her.

Oh…and she organized 2 fundraisers for the hospitals that cared for her. Wow!  How many people can say that?

I’m hoping that one day you will all have had a chance to see this remarkable young woman’s 5-minute gift that she gave to our group. I have no doubt we are not the only ones who have been touched by her story of resilience, strength, and hope. Mary shows me that life is short and we have the opportunity to make it sweet or not….it’s our choice. Mary struggles…but she does NOT suffer.

Thank you, Mary. You will never know how much this little project of yours has had an impact on me and how I decide to look at my illness. And I know it will stay with me for the rest of my life.

And to the doctor who told Mary to be ‘thankful,’… dare you, sir. Until you have walked .in anyone’s shoes, you have absolutely no right whatsoever to tell anyone how they should feel.  Despite the name of my group (“Attitude of Gratitude”) I would never dream of telling any of my members that this is how they should feel. Some do…some don’t…some try really, really hard.

Thank God that Mary tried.

Perhaps she tried just to spite you, in which case I thank you too…

….as I’m pretty sure an entire chronic pain/illness community is about to as well after hearing her story.

In gratitude,

Lauren Zalewski

Founder/co-admin “Attitude of Gratitude with Chronic Pain”  Blogger “Gratitude Addict”  February 13, 2017