From the red plastic typewriter Lisa Bradshaw received as a Christmas gift from her parents at age 8 and the movie that inspired her passion for storytelling to the loss of her husband at age 32 and becoming a widowed single mother then founding The DON'T WAIT Project, Bradshaw shares it all in this TEDx Talk. What's Your DON'T WAIT Story?
At eight years old, I remember being a curious kid with several questions about faith, life and the world. It's the age my parents bought me my first typewriter for Christmas. It was plastic, bright red, and best of all, it had a corrective ribbon⏤I could fix my mistakes and keep writing my story. It's also the year I met Wesley⏤both events changed the trajectory of my life.
For as long as I can remember, becoming a writer was my dream. I started out wanting to write books, then greeting cards, and eventually, screenplays—good ones, like the kind that leave us sitting in our movie theater seat as the credits roll because we are still processing what we just saw, heard and experienced.
Weeks before my high school graduation, I wrote a letter to the president of Hallmark, asking him what is required to work for the company after college. He kindly replied with a detailed letter about the range of skills and education Hallmark employees possess and suggested I get in touch regarding employment when I had finished my English degree. I kept our letters, archiving them in my high school scrapbook.
While in college (my major now changed from English to journalism with a minor in creative writing), I wrote a letter to director Ron Howard, asking him the same questions about the film industry, but that letter was "returned to sender" because I didn't have his correct address. I tried sending my letter to a few other seemingly valid addresses, but I never reached him. This happened long before information about his management or production company would've been so readily available on the Internet.
I was still in college when I married Wesley at 22. I was diagnosed with cancer at 24. I survived and our son was born three years after cancer. My first book was published a year later, and I felt grateful for experiencing the exact life I had dreamed about living. The same body that had created cancer had now healed and created human life, and we were in the midst of a miracle. Our lives weren't perfect⏤we worked at our marriage, but we were a happy and solid family, and I had looked forward to our future.
We could not have known that cancer would get replaced by Wesley’s sudden onset of illness. It was an ordinary Saturday morning when he cleaned out an old cabinet in our garage that had droppings, mold and an old bag of fertilizer. He complained of shortness of breath that day and quickly declined over the next several months, ultimately receiving a double-lung transplant exactly one year after cleaning the garage. He died six weeks later at just 35 years old. I was 32. Our son was only 5. None of it was easy, and much of it seemed impossible, but as our son and I moved forward, and I started writing my second book, Big Shoes: A Young Widowed Mother's Memoir, I discovered that ours is just one story. If I could share our experience and help other people through their own difficult plights, then good could come from what had happened to our family, and Wesley’s life and death could serve an even greater purpose.
Weeks before I finished writing Big Shoes, the idea for The DON’T WAIT Project (DWP) came to me at 530am. I wanted to think of a way that would help people not wait on the important things that bring joy, satisfaction and worth to our lives, no matter the obstacles. I wanted the Project and idea to be wide open, with no limitations. Not just about health, business, family, faith or any other one thing—it could be anything.
I call these the nouns in life: the people, places things and ideas that bring joy and fulfillment to our lives but we sometimes give up on along the way⏤for whatever reason. We get too tired, too busy, too bored, too broke, too sad, too comfortable. It's meaningful to do things that aren't always easy or convenient, like call an old friend, explore the outdoors and say "I love you".
The DWP encourages us to explore the no-so-comfortable aspects of our lives that may need more nudging, like seeing our doctor, mending a strained relationship (or letting it go) and revamping our resume when it's time to move on in our career.
The DON'T WAIT stories we receive from people who support the DWP are more than amazing—the stories are life-changing. The ripple effect has always been my hope, much like when I started out with the goal of becoming a writer. I could not have known it would lead to me writing our story in all its joy and sadness. The same is true for the DWP and its possibilities.
We can learn from each other's hardships, triumphs, obstacles and accomplishments. I believe that when we share of ourselves, we help enrich and guide the lives of other people. I believe in storytelling—I believe in it so strongly that I've dedicated my career to it. I haven't written a screenplay (yet) and working at Hallmark is no longer my dream job—but this is. And it all started with that bright red, plastic typewriter.
We all have a DON'T WAIT story. What's your DON'T WAIT Story?
Lisa Bradshaw hosts Life with Lisa Bradshaw⏤a television talk show. She is a mother, 23-year cancer survivor, author, producer and founder of The DON’T WAIT Project (DWP), a 501c3 non-profit organization committed to raising community awareness about how positive life choices can impact the health and welfare of individuals, organizations and communities.
Bradshaw founded the DWP when writing her second book, Big Shoes: A Young Widowed Mother’s Memoir, after the tragic loss of her husband at age 35. Now, 15 years later, their grown son has left for college, and Bradshaw is focusing on a different story.
“Hardships are opportunities for crossroads not impasses in life,” Bradshaw says. “The purpose for the DWP and my TV show isn’t about telling my story⏤although I’ve always been willing to lend my own story if it helps someone else better tell their own. Instead, it’s about shedding light on the people who are doing good in the world, no matter the obstacles. The Project is about true storytelling in all its heartache and triumph. And it’s what the DWP does best."
Bradshaw writes and speaks on topics ranging from motherhood to patient advocacy and entrepreneurship to organ donation registry. She has been a guest on national television and radio, including Oprah Radio and The Rachael Ray Show, and her story has been featured in multiple print media outlets and online, including New York Daily News, InStyle, Parents, Working Mother, Positive Impact Magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms, Oprah.com and more.
Life with Lisa Bradshaw airs on NCW Life Channel (Charter Cable and LocalTel) and streams live at www.ncwlife.com. Check listings for show times. Past shows are available one week after their original airdates through show archives. If you are a member of the media and would like to interview Lisa Bradshaw, please CONTACT US.