The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Author, Napkin Notes

Technical Recruiter for IT Staffing Firm

Featured on Rachael Ray, Today Show, and Fox & Friends

Wife, Lissa

Daughter, Emma


Guest Bio

The Difference a 'Napkin Note' Can Make A GRIM DIAGNOSIS
In the fall of 2011, Garth was diagnosed with kidney cancer. His daughter Emma had just turned twelve. Garth had to undergo intensive treatment and a painful surgery.

Over the past three years, Garth has had to sit down with Emma four times and tell her that he had cancer. Doctors recently told him that he has only an 8% chance of seeing Emma graduate from high school.

“I don’t know how much time I have left. But I have discovered a way to every day let her know how loved she is, how much I support her, and how much I care about the person she becomes,” shares Garth.

Every morning, since Emma started kindergarten Garth writes a “napkin note” which he tucks inside her lunch bag. The note may be a motivational quote or simply a word of encouragement. Garth never realized how much these notes meant to Emma until after his first surgery. She showed him a notebook filled with his notes that he had given her throughout the years.  Garth began to encourage others through Facebook to make a difference in the lives of the people they loved.  

After his difficult diagnosis, Garth realized that there was little he could control in his battle with cancer. There was a good chance he wouldn’t be there to write a “napkin note” for Emma every day until she graduated from high school. He thought to himself, “What am I going to do?”

Garth decided in that moment that he would do what he could and he could make sure Emma had a napkin note – one for every day of school until she graduated. He estimated how many napkin notes he would need to last through Emma’s graduation – 826. Then he committed to write 826 napkin notes to fulfill this promise to his daughter. Garth emailed Alex Sheen of Because I Said I Would - a social movement and nonprofit dedicated to bettering humanity through promises made and kept. He told Alex about his promise he was going to make for his daughter. A few days later, Alex responded.

In early 2014, Garth’s story went viral as Alex began sharing it on the Because I Said I Would Facebook page. Two hours after posting Garth’s story, Alex told Garth, “Your post on Facebook is pacing to be the most successful post we’ve ever had on Facebook.” A few days later, Alex posted Garth’s story on a few other sites, Reddit and Imgur. Garth’s phone began ringing off the hook for media interviews.

Garth grew up in an Irish Catholic family, he became an altar boy and Eucharistic minister before beginning to doubt his faith in early adulthood. His cancer diagnosis not only broke his spirit but challenged his faith. “After I was diagnosed with cancer,” Garth shares, “I was incredibly angry and bitter with God. I didn’t go to church. I lost faith. I was angry because of the potential of me dying before I got the chance to fulfill my role as parent.” With the help of his local parish priest, Father Dan, a man who had recently been diagnosed with cancer too, Garth turned back to God. The priest helped him come to the realization that it is okay to be angry with God for his health plight.

Garth says his conversation with Father Dan was a turning point for him in his faith. He also credits the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal benefit society which offers financial aid to members and their families, with encouraging him and being supportive of him in his battle against cancer. Garth says when he too began to help others in the community he was able to take his eyes off of his disease and make a difference in the lives around him.

Although Garth is still battling cancer, the napkin notes give him a great sense of purpose. “People have been put on this earth to do something,” shares Garth. “God doesn’t want me to write a book or help with a movie. He wants me to pack a lunch for my daughter and write her a note. That’s all I have to do and everything else will fall into place.”

With the medicine and treatments Garth is taking he only has three or four good hours each day. He juggles the responsibilities of dad, husband, employee, and patient which often leaves him feeling overwhelmed. One day he had left work early to make it to Emma’s volleyball game. After completing a conference call in his car he went in to see part of Emma’s game. On the way home, he cried out to God and asked for direction and clarity. Later that evening, Garth received a call from two agents who wanted to purchase movie rights for his book. His agent told him that New Line Cinema would be the best fit for his family and could begin the contract process right away. Garth was thankful that God had indeed given him the clarity he had prayed for earlier that day. 
Garth says cancer has helped him realize the power of connecting more meaningfully with the people we love, the importance of reinforcing how much we care about them and the need to communicate the important lessons in life to our kids while we can. If your child is reluctant to receive a note from Mom or Dad Garth suggests: (1) hiding a note at the bottom of a paper lunch bag or even (2) using acronyms, such as MTFBWY (May the Force be with you) or DFTBA (Don’t forget to be awesome).

Napkin notes don’t have to be on napkins and they aren’t just for children. These notes can be for any loved one. Handwritten notes are meaningful in the digital world in which we live. It takes time and effort to both write and read. Garth suggests the following way to leave a note for the people you love:

  • Hidden Notes – Hide notes throughout the house. In a laptop, an oven mitt, or a pocket.
  • Note on the Front Seat – Garth remembers the first note he received from his wife on December 2, 2013. It was the first day of his new job. He says the note she left him is still in his truck. You can also tuck a note behind the sun visor.
  • Mailed Notes – Don’t forget the traditional way of sending a note. Everyone likes to receive something in the mail other than bills and junk mail.
  • Wallet or Purse Notes – Tuck a note to your spouse next to a debit card or driver’s license. “Writing notes for your loved ones helps to strengthen your relationship and improve communication, Garth says, “It’s worth it.”
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