Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Jim and Jennifer Moss- Bringing Smiles Back

     When I was just starting out my interview idea, a friend from my university residence came up to me and started to explain the story of her uncle, Jim Moss, as a possible idea. I thought he sounded really cool, but in all honesty, that whole conversation slipped my mind for a couple of months. Then about a two weeks ago I decided to send him an email, and we planned an interview. Jim Moss, and his wife Jennifer, are probably the nicest couple in the world, and I wish I spoke to them sooner. Needless to say, their story was still amazing, and my timing in fact worked out funnier than anyone could of imagined. This story (originally) is up Wednesday, July 3rd- also known as “baby day”. Why? Because on Wednesday, July 3rd, Jim and Jen Moss introduce Moss baby number three to the world, what will be probably the happiest child in the world. Happiest, all beginning from a rather scary moment in her (yup, a girl!) parents' lives, starting in September 2009.
     While I was starting my first year of high school in Ingersoll, Jim was training in the off months for his tenth season in the National Lacrosse League. During the time when regular games weren't on, Jim worked at a store. But it was the regular season that meant more. During the months of December through April, he was known as “The Axe”, #55 on the Colorado Mammoth. Named 2003 NLL Defensive Player of the Year, and being named to the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame as a part of the gold-winning Team Canada, “The Axe” was making his name known in a second sport after leaving the London Knights (of the Ontario Hockey League) as their captain in the 97-98 squad.

Getting to know Jim Moss
Photo by Victoria Alexander

     Jim was married to a wife he loved (and still loves) dearly, had one little child and another on the way. Then something unexpected happened, an injury no one could have expected, not even doctors, seemingly. Injuries were to be expected in his pro-sports career, especially as a lacrosse player. Some of the things he was used to included torn cartilage in both knees, separated and dislocated shoulders, cracked neck and back vertebrae, a broken nose thirteen times (well, fourteen if you include once by his son), but never paralysis. One day Jim was watching television with his wife when he collapsed, fully paralyzed. The doctors thought he contracted something called Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neuromuscular disease, but that was later ruled out. After that, and still to this day, it's listed as an undefined neuromuscular disease, permanently ending the professional sports career of “The Axe”, Jim Moss.
     Not knowing the future, he decided he had to do something to keep some positivity, for him, his wife, and child. He decided to keep a gratitude journal in which he could record one little thing each day that he was grateful for. Jim, to the suprise of many, made it out of the hospital faster than would be imagined by anyone, in time for the birth of this second child. While back home in Ontario, Jim was in a hurry and scribbled a smiley face on a piece of paper, wrote what he was grateful for at the time (the sound of his children giggling in the bathtub) and posted it on Facebook. That was the start of what is now internationally known as The Smile Epidemic.
     That was all back in 2009, but five years later Jim and I both had completely new stories. Leading us to meet last week on his back porch and have some of the best iced tea I've ever had in my life. While at his house, he was telling me how excited he was for the birth of his new baby which would be a week away.. TODAY as of the day I'm posting this interview. While looking at the Smile Epidemic app I saw a photo, posted by a new account named “Baby Lyla”, with a smiley face simply saying “I'm here!”. She's one of the cutest babies I've ever seen, but her mom and dad have come a long way in a few years, so I need to fill in the rest of the story, maybe Lyla can read this on her tenth birthday (when I'm 28.. I'll be ancient).
     When I left off, Jim posted a photo to Facebook with a smiley face, and now it's an app, website, blog, twitter account, and an international movement in over 200 countries around the world. Now though, it's not just Jim posting. The idea really took off, and the main idea is really anybody can, and should, just post one thing you're happy or grateful for that day, and post it online. You come to realize, after a while it's easier and easier to find something you're grateful, contrary to what you may think at first. After some others started to post their own, Jim and Jen decided to make something out of it. There were down to two name idea.. The Smile Epidemic and Smi-ral. No offense, but I think you picked the better name by far.

Jim and Jen Moss... one week until baby day!
Photo by Victoria Alexander

     What they really loved as it got going was that people all around the world, no matter what country, were grateful for the same things. For their pets, for their family, for the weather. Some though, stuck out to the Moss couple, smiles they never thought they could help bring back to people. They told me the story of a family of four, who had just lost an aunt to cancer. They found out about the app, and the whole family started doing this simply activity once a day, and they told Jim how becuase of him, they're getting their smile back. Jim, Jen, and myself couldn't believe how such a small idea can change so many lives for the better.
     The couple reads the smiles every night, and now since the app is on Blackberry, Apple and IOS software, more and more people are sending them in. People have been grateful for “no more chemo”, and even a little nine-year-old girl from Austrailia who wrote “having a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in.” See? You start to see how much you're grateful for. Some of the most insightful are the most simple, like a girl they met at an orphanage last week who simply said “waking up.”
     I wanted to end with that, where it is now. There are many goals now, such as bringing it into the school and workplace, to create a more happier.. well, world. One of the things Jen and Jim do with their children every night now, around the dinner table, is ask them one thing that they were grateful for that day, in the hopes when they're older they'll continue. At this time, they still don't know what's wrong with Jim Moss, and maybe they won't ever. He goes through periods were it'll be anywhere from 3 to 21 days when he'll lose the ability to move his legs, or experiences the same shakiness as one may who is diagnosed with Parkinson's. When this happens, what Jim does is gets his computer, and goes on The Smile Epidemic website. He gets the chance to see all the things that he can be, and is, grateful for. He told me that with out his illness, he never would of been able to make any of this happen.
     So maybe, “The Axe” told me, just maybe.. if he has to be sick everyday for the rest of his life to bring happiness to so many people, it might just be worth it.

     I'm dedicating this story to the lovely baby Lyla Moss! Born on this sunny July 3rd, 2013. Her first ever Smile Epidemic smile was posted shortly after she was born, and it reads “I'm here! 8lbs and 7 ounces, super healthy and my Dad says I'm beautiful just like Momma. It's great to be alive!”

Yes it is Lyla, yes it is.  

Me: "getting to interview.." Jim: "Me! The Smile CEO"
Jim Moss and I at the Moss home.
Photo by Victoria Alexander

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