Finding non-material reasons to live


Photo by Heather Davidson
Photo by Heather Davidson

Following his battle with leukemia, a Wilfrid Laurier University graduate is looking to inspire others to reflect on the value of non-material things in their life through a campaign called Reasons to Dream.

The idea started from a list he formulated to help him through his cancer treatment.

Josh Martin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia six years ago.

He was told he only had a 40 to 50 per cent chance of survival.

Faced with such a harrowing number, he knew he had to motivate himself to defy the odds and become a survivor.

“One of the first nights I was there [in the hospital], I took out the journal and on top of the first page I wrote the words ‘reasons to fight,’ ” Martin said.

He proceeded to list “anything and everything that came to mind about what made life so awesome and worth fighting for.”

Martin’s complete list consists of 118 different reasons to live — none of which are material things.

Instead, Martin took a step back, removing himself from the materialistic ideal society prefers.

He reminded himself about friends, family and life’s simple pleasures.

“The idea was to have something to look back on during treatment to keep myself motivated and energized in the long journey ahead,” he explained.

In October 2008, about seven months after his initial diagnosis, Martin underwent a bone marrow transplant — the hospital had found a match from an anonymous donor in Europe. From then on, he was on the road to recovery.

Today, Martin is fully cancer-free and works as a development coordinator for The Otesha Project, a charitable organization based out of Ottawa that strives to create a more sustainable world, asking youth to reflect on the future consequences of their actions.

After joining Otesha in August, Martin proposed the idea of creating a list very similar to his own to the organization’s staff and board of directors at the beginning of the Reasons to Dream campaign.

Reasons to Dream asks the general public to reflect on the little, non-material things in life that they truly value and share them with others.

“The timing, I think, is important too, given that we’re entering the commercial craze holiday season ahead of us,” Martin said. “We thought now would be a great time to launch a campaign like this to counteract a little bit of that materialism that we often see at this time of year.”

Anyone can participate — all that’s required is to go to the campaign website and comment on the web page.

“They can see what other people have posted about their non-material sources of happiness and simple pleasures, as well,” Martin explained.

Reasons to Dream will be heavily promoted leading up to Christmas, but will continue throughout the year in hopes of motivating people to re-evaluate and alter their consumer choices in favour of something more sustainable.

“This campaign is a reminder that the road to happiness isn’t paved with possessions,” Martin said.

“It’s a reminder about the benefits of reducing consumption. It’s both personal and environmental.”

While Otesha has not decided what to do with the list once it’s finished, Martin sees a potential for these ideas to be integrated into the organization’s flagship program.

“Each year we organize these cycling and performing tours where teams volunteer to cycle across different parts of Canada and give presentations on environmental issues and sustainability to different schools and youth groups along the way,” he explained.

Creating a list of reasons to fight has changed the way Martin perceives the world.

It was “a reminder about what’s really important in life.”

Although he initially intended for his list to motivate himself, he loves the idea of sharing this experience with other people.

“It gave me a real wake-up call about the things that really matter in life, and I’m just happy I can share that and hopefully encourage other people to rethink their own consumption habits and evaluate all of life’s awesome non-material things,” he said.

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