A better understanding is a tweet away

    Everyone has goals. Some people have big goals. They want to be president of a company or feed undernourished children. Others have simple goals that are just as meaningful. They want to graduate from college or raise a family.
    Vanessa Riddle is an 11-year-old from Scotland. Her goal earlier this year was to reach 100,000 Twitter followers.
    Some would scoff. They’d say she should use her energy for something else. Others would question why a preteen wants or needs that much attention. Those people would be making assumptions without knowing why Vanessa set her goal in the first place.
    Vanessa is raising awareness of neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of childhood cancer. She is more than just an advocate. She’s a patient.
    An 11-year-old raising awareness about a disease that she’s also valiantly fighting seems a little more acceptable, doesn’t it?
    Acceptance is one lesson we should learn from Vanessa. We also should learn to avoid leaping to conclusions. We don’t know those around us as much as we think we do. Why must we always assume the worst until someone shows their best?
    Vanessa is teaching something else. Her Twitter crusade teaches us that we can all find something in common.
    Consider this: Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Susan Sarandon, William Shatner, Carrie Underwood, Justin Bieber and Channing Tatum all follow Vanessa on Twitter. They often leave comments of support. If you locked those celebrities in a room, no matter how nice they are as individuals, they would probably have disagreements. But they are united on at least one issue: wanting the best for Vanessa.
    Admittedly, many of Vanessa’s followers, famous and not, won’t do anything beyond follow her. They’ll see her tweets, remember that she’s that girl with cancer and then move on.
    There’s nothing wrong with that.
    If you’re willing to give a little, it’s likely you’re willing to give more, if needed. If you help a stranger, no matter how small your effort, you’ll likely have the backs of the people you know.
    Vanessa reached her goal of 100,000 followers in early December. Her followers now number 165,000. By early 2013, I wouldn’t be surprised if that number surpasses a quarter of a million.
    If you’re not part of that group, you should think of joining it. Vanessa’s Twitter handle is @vanessariddle. From there, you can learn more about the disease she’s fighting.