Heather Preston Wheeler

Heather Preston Wheeler
Episode 73

Join host Japhet De Oliveira in this episode as he sits down with his guest, Heather Preston Wheeler, for a heart-warming conversation surrounding Christmas decorations, being a closet introvert, finding peace through immense grief, and making a positive difference.
Libsyn Podcast
“I realized at some point that I had to really connect with my grief, and that it needed to be my grief … I needed to process it the way that I needed to process it … Because it changes you as a person. I'm not the same person. The person that I was, which is also something you mourn, the person that I was to the person where I could find peace with what happened to my son. Finding peace is not meaning you're ever okay with what happened.”

Narrator: Welcome friends to another episode of The Story & Experience Podcast. Join your host, Japhet De Oliveira with his guest today and discover the moments that shape us, our families and communities.

Japhet De Oliveira: Hey, welcome friends to another episode of The Story & Experience Podcast. I'm delighted with my guest today sitting opposite me right now in the studio here at Roseville, California. We are very excited about what we are going to discover. You have to meet her in person, because she's very, very, very recognizable, interesting, and lots of expressions in her face that you can't see, but you're going to have to kind of capture, right? If you're brand new to this podcast, the way it works, that we have a hundred questions. First 10 I ask, 11 to 100 the guest gets to choose and we will begin straight away with number one, where I can ask you your name and does anybody ever mispronounce it?

Heather Preston Wheeler: My name is Heather Preston Wheeler. People don't mispronounce it, but what really irritates me is when they put a hyphen between Preston and Wheeler.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, really?

Heather Preston Wheeler: Correct.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh my. Oh my. Tell me, with the hyphen in between that, do you correct them?

Heather Preston Wheeler: I do.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. That's good.

Heather Preston Wheeler: I very purposely did not add a hyphen to my name.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. When we refer to you, we refer to you as Heather Preston Wheeler. We never refer to you as just Heather, just so you're aware, it's-

Heather Preston Wheeler: Or HPW.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Or not. Heather, what do you do for work?

Heather Preston Wheeler: I have done so many things in this organization, and it's been such a fun journey. Right now I'm the director of Roseville Operations, and so that encompasses the campuses here at Roseville that we oversee. Then I also have the wonderful team of the administrative services department, and that is all the EAs. They are a fun bunch of helpful individuals who touch, really so many lives. I'm really proud of that department and how we've grown together as a team.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's great. Now, you've had an interesting career, right? Lots of different things.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yes. I'm going to kind of draw this out a little bit. Just give us a little spattering of some of the things you've done.

Heather Preston Wheeler: I always knew that I wanted to be a writer. When I went to college, I got a degree in public relations and communication. Then I decided to go to graduate school, because I wanted to be a journalist. I did do work at a paper, and I decided quite quickly that was probably not the route for me and-

Japhet De Oliveira: Then... Yeah, go on.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Because I liked to write my stories and then you know how that is. If you've ever been in that industry, it ends up not even sounding like you.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yes, yes.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Then I decided maybe I would be a professor. I did TAing for a while when I was in graduate school, and I decided that was not my thing.

I did my thesis with a healthcare system in Nevada where I was getting my degree, and I just really fell in love with healthcare. I'm not a clinician, but I fell in love with the fact that it really touches people's lives. I am from a family, my parents are teachers, and I've always, I grew up watching them touch other people's lives. I'm married to a psychologist. He does things that are meaningful. For me, it was being able to use my talents in an industry that was meaningful, because I'm not a clinician, I'm not a teacher. Picking that for me was important. I actually started at Adventist Health as an intern in the communication department. I did that for two years, and then I kind of progressed through that department and I had an opportunity to go to IT, which is whoever thought of that, good for them.

A lot of insanity involved in picking me to go into IT. But you know what? It was one of the most fun and challenging parts of my career. I had to learn an industry that I am not a natural to. It was a challenge. And I realized in that, that I love challenges. Whenever I get an opportunity to do something new or something that I can grow and learn, I really just jump at the chance.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's great.

Heather Preston Wheeler: I've gotten so many opportunities in this organization to do that, and I feel so blessed.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's fantastic. Well, that's beautiful. That's fantastic. I'm glad for you. In the morning we're... Here's a couple of simple questions. In the morning when you wake up, first drink of the day, is it coffee, tea, water, liquid, green smoothie?

Heather Preston Wheeler: Water.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, all right.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Ice water.

Japhet De Oliveira: I was going to ask. Okay. Ice water. How much do you have?

Heather Preston Wheeler: It depends on the morning.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, okay. All right.

Heather Preston Wheeler: But I have it right by my bed, and if I wake up in the middle of the night, I drink some ice water then, too.

Japhet De Oliveira: It stays iced all the way through to the morning?

Heather Preston Wheeler: It's called a Yeti.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay.

Heather Preston Wheeler: If you don't have one, get one.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Okay. This is what we have to deal with, with Heather Preston Wheeler. This is great.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Well, hey, these are life tips.

Japhet De Oliveira: I know. These are great. Heather, where were you born?

Heather Preston Wheeler: I was born in Southern California.

Japhet De Oliveira: When you were a child there, what did you imagine you would grow up to be?

Heather Preston Wheeler: Oh, you know what? I really wanted to be a vet.

Japhet De Oliveira: Really?

Heather Preston Wheeler: Oh, yes. Then I've quickly realized I wasn't that smart, but I have just always had a really big heart for animals and I love them. That was really my dream, until I realized, "Maybe I'm not as good in science as I am writing something down."

Japhet De Oliveira: Hey, that's fair enough. If people were to describe your personality, would they describe you as an introvert or an extrovert, and would you agree?

Heather Preston Wheeler: They would definitely think that I was an extrovert, and I would disagree.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. Okay. Introvert.

Heather Preston Wheeler: I'm a very friendly person, and I think I'm a warm person, right, to people. I love people, but it's also the type of thing like that exhausts me. In my personal life, I like to keep a very... I'm friendly to everyone, and I truly love people.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Love, love, love. But in my personal life, the people that get close to me, there's very few and far between.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. No, that's fair. That's fair. Are you... Habits now. Are you an early riser or late night owl?

Heather Preston Wheeler: Well, I get up very early.

Japhet De Oliveira: What's early?

Heather Preston Wheeler: 4:00 A.M.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. All right. Yeah, that's real.

Heather Preston Wheeler: It is real. That's why I have to drink the ice water.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, sure.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Wakes me right up. But that means I'm probably in bed. This is pathetic, but sometimes at 8:30.

Japhet De Oliveira: That is not, that is great.

Heather Preston Wheeler: You know those times you've texted me like 11 P.M.?

Japhet De Oliveira: I don't know what you're talking about.

Heather Preston Wheeler: No, I turn my phone off.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, that's good.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Hey, it's called Japhet mode.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's true.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Phone off.

Japhet De Oliveira: I do tend to text 24/7. Yeah. That's good. Glad to hear about that. Thank you for asking that... Mention that as well. Hey, this morning when you woke up at 4:00 A.M., first thought that went through your mind.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Wow, it's super cold outside. Do I really want to go out there, because I exercise in the morning.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Well, it was a little bit cold. That's good. All right.

Heather Preston Wheeler: A little bit.

Japhet De Oliveira: A little bit.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Not Colorado cold.

Japhet De Oliveira: No, not indeed. A leadership question here. You've led lots of teams your entire life, worked with lots of different people. Are you a backseat driver?

Heather Preston Wheeler: Well, I think that that's a good thing in this, if you have leaders working for you. I do think being a backseat driver is important. The way that you do that is important. Because, I have managers who work under me and part of my job is to help them grow into leaders in their own realm. If I'm driving all the time, they never get that experience. But just like I've had great mentors in my career, because I really have, and I could name a few that have worked here, still work here, that have just really made me the leader that I am today. I want to be that to my team. I think being a backseat driver in leadership is not a negative thing. Now, are you telling them what to do every time? Now, I'm a terrible backseat driver if my 18 year old is driving, I'm not cool.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Half the time I think I'm going to die. But in terms of that leadership question, I think it's important to be there to guide, but not to tell, if that makes sense.

Japhet De Oliveira: Absolutely. There are degrees.

Heather Preston Wheeler: To be there if there's a question that's asked. To be present in the car, but not driving the car, and not telling them how to drive at every minute they're at the wheel, if that makes sense.

Japhet De Oliveira: Absolutely. Unless it's your 18 year old, then it's different.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Oh yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Okay. All right. The privilege of parenthood, right? The floor is yours. We're between 11 and 100. 100 obviously, closer, you get to that number, it's more vulnerable, more open. Where would you like to begin?

Heather Preston Wheeler: You know what? I am 48.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay.

Heather Preston Wheeler: I'm going to begin there.

Japhet De Oliveira: All right. 48 it is. Brilliant. Tell us about your best-

Heather Preston Wheeler: Now, you can't ask me my age. That can't be a question. It's off the table.

Japhet De Oliveira: It seriously is.

Heather Preston Wheeler: I went out there with it.

Japhet De Oliveira: I know. It's fantastic. It's good. Thank you. Insights.

Heather Preston Wheeler: You were wondering, weren't you?

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, I was.

Heather Preston Wheeler: You were thinking 29.

Japhet De Oliveira: Sure. Very. Oh, way less than that. I know.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Oh, okay.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, so 48. Tell us about your best personality trait.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Well, there's so many. No, I'm joking. Where do we begin?

Japhet De Oliveira: I know, I know. Heather Preston Wheeler.

Heather Preston Wheeler: You know what I like about myself is the fact that I do feel like I am the type of person who is warm, because I truly care about people. The thing about it is, it's not so much about what I give, it's what I get. That's why I love that about myself because I am so willing to go and say hi to anyone. The thing... It's not about me, it ends up being about not this great thing about Heather, but I learn so much about people and I love hearing people's stories. I love hearing things about them. You would be surprised... Well, you might not be, but you would be surprised how much information someone will give you about themselves if you go up, you say hi, and start asking them questions.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yes.

Heather Preston Wheeler: I think that's one of the reasons why early on in my life I wanted to be a reporter, because I just love learning about people's stories. I love that about myself. It's because I get so much from the other person, and I love getting to know people.

Japhet De Oliveira: Hey, I totally understand that. I am constantly in awe of how much I'm learning from other people's lives. It's just fantastic. I'm with you on that. That's great. That's beautiful. That was 48. Where next?

Heather Preston Wheeler: Oh yeah, I forgot my part in this.

Japhet De Oliveira: I know.

Heather Preston Wheeler: All right, what about 35?

Japhet De Oliveira: 35. All right, let's go 35. Here we go.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Are these the same questions for everyone?

Japhet De Oliveira: They are.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Oh, that's very interesting.

Japhet De Oliveira: They are. Well, they are-

Heather Preston Wheeler: I should have done some homework.

Japhet De Oliveira: Most people don't, which is fantastic. They listen to them and they don't clock. "Oh, I don't want to ask 35. I don't want to ask 43." It's fantastic. What makes it a little bit more authentic. Beautiful. So 35, here it is. Share a special interest, unique talent that you love, that you have, sorry, not love. Well, and hopefully love. So a special interesting, unique talent that you have.

Heather Preston Wheeler: I love to decorate.

Japhet De Oliveira: Really?

Heather Preston Wheeler: Oh yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: What kind of things?

Heather Preston Wheeler: Like interior design.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, okay.

Heather Preston Wheeler: It's just something that... You know when something's so natural to you. It's the weirdest thing, because you know, it's sadly I can't make a career out of that and support my family. Some people can. But it's just something I really enjoy doing. It's Christmas season, and I love this story because when my kids were growing up, I was really conscious about not spending a lot of money on gifts for them during Christmas. I wanted it to be something that wasn't just about presents.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yes.

Heather Preston Wheeler: One of the things that I did that was really big as I decorated everywhere in the house. Their rooms were a Pottery Barn catalog, the Christmas one. It's always been something that I love to do. To this day, my son is, he just turned 19 and he sent me a picture of his dorm room. He's going to the University of Utah, and he had completely decorated his area with lights and everything.

Japhet De Oliveira: That must have made you so proud.

Heather Preston Wheeler: It did.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh yeah.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Because I know he got that from me. My kids will be like, it's kind of like a blessing and a curse because every year I try to put out less because I'm getting old and it's so exhausting. They'll be like, "Hey mom, where's this? Where's that?" That's something I really enjoy doing that probably most people wouldn't know about me.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's fantastic. That's great. It's lovely that your son also recognized that and copies that through this. It's beautiful. Good. 35 up or down?

Heather Preston Wheeler: Oh, let's go up.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay.

Heather Preston Wheeler: You pick.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, I wish. But-

Heather Preston Wheeler: You can't even pick like-

Japhet De Oliveira: No, I can't. No.

Heather Preston Wheeler: I can't be like, "Pick one between 35 and 50,"?

Japhet De Oliveira: No, so many have asked and I've been faithful to it and said, "Your privilege."

Heather Preston Wheeler: Okay. I'm going to go to 80.

Japhet De Oliveira: 80, all right. 80 it is. How would you like to change in the future?

Heather Preston Wheeler: You know what? If I could solve, there's so many things, right? There are so many things. I think we all have our things that are close to us. I don't, in any way when I say this, want anyone to think that I think this is the biggest problem the world has.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay.

Heather Preston Wheeler: But it's very near and dear to me. If I could solve the mental health crisis that we are experiencing in our country, because it so... It touches so many lives in so many ways.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yes, it does.

Heather Preston Wheeler: I think there's such a stigma around it. It's personal to me because I had an uncle who was schizophrenic and it was such a sad thing to have to watch. I currently, without saying too much, know someone who has a son who's schizophrenic, and knowing that journey as a parent, yes, it's heartbreaking. I also think that mental illness feeds into our homeless situation.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yes, it does.

Heather Preston Wheeler: How do you solve for that? It's so heartbreaking. I think it feeds into this epidemic of suicide that, We're just seeing skyrocketing numbers. Every day I feel like I read about someone who's committed suicide and it feeds into abuse, so many things. I think for me, that's something that if I could, and my husband's a psychologist and so I understand, too. I have a connection there with the things that he deals with and sees in children. It's just, it's heartbreaking. It's a heartbreaking epidemic that I do not think we have our arms around at all in this country, at all.

Japhet De Oliveira: I like where you went with that question and I agree. I think that it really is, it's intense. I appreciate that about you Heather, as well. That not only that you spoke about it now, but I've seen that in the way that you handle complex situations and for those who are suffering. Thank you for that. Yeah, it's good. Well, that was 80. Where would you like to go next?

Heather Preston Wheeler: Have we been in the seventies?

Japhet De Oliveira: No, we have not been in the seventies.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Oh, right. Let's go down to 77.

Japhet De Oliveira: 77. All right then. Share one of your most cup filling experiences with us. Ooh.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Oh, that is a good one. You know what? I feel like I have had a lot of those in my life. You know what? It's so funny because I don't know that I'm going to talk about a specific one, but I want to go back to just some of the interactions I've had with people and getting to know people that completely is what I really thrive on. I don't know if I can say a specific one, but I can say having lunch with a friend, getting to know someone new. Honestly, this sounds funny, but you're stuck in a line at a grocery store. I love to talk to the person next to me. It's amazing what you'll find out. That kind of stuff fills me as a person. I just really love that.

Japhet De Oliveira: You told us that you were an introvert, but yet I hear all these stories and-

Heather Preston Wheeler: I'm a closet introvert-

Japhet De Oliveira: And I've seen you-

Heather Preston Wheeler: Haven't you ever heard that term?

Japhet De Oliveira: I've seen you take care of so many people and you're very warm with people. How did you teach yourself to move from being more quiet, I guess, and to being so inquisitive in people's conversations and their lives?

Heather Preston Wheeler: Because I'm more interested in learning about them than telling about myself.

Japhet De Oliveira: I know it was hard to get you to do this podcast.

Heather Preston Wheeler: I know. How long did you bother me?

Japhet De Oliveira: A long time.

Heather Preston Wheeler: I practically had to have a restraining order against Japhet.

Japhet De Oliveira: Fortunately that's not real. For the record, just for the record.

Heather Preston Wheeler: He's going to cut that part out, anyway.

Japhet De Oliveira: I wish.

Heather Preston Wheeler: What was the question?

Japhet De Oliveira: How did you move or expand yourself into the space where-

Heather Preston Wheeler: No, because it, that's, I think it's the closet introvert. Like I said, it's not hard for me to connect with people, at all. It's just that I feel like when it comes to who I am personally, I keep that closer to my chest. I value... So I love people and I love being around people, but when it comes to my personal life and who I choose to spend time with in my personal life, I have very close friends. It's not like I want to go out to... If you ask me what I want to do on the weekend, it's not like I want to go out to a party where 50 people are. I'd rather hang out with my best friend.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's good.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Or hang out with my husband or hang out with my family. I'm a super big homebody. I think in my professional life and when I'm out and about, I just love talking to people. But it's not like I'm going to invite them all home with me. I don't know if that explains it.

Japhet De Oliveira: No, it does. That's great. All right. That was 77a.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Oh.

Japhet De Oliveira: I know. I know. Where next?

Heather Preston Wheeler: All right. Let's do 85.

Japhet De Oliveira: 85. All right, here we go. Describe a role model you aspire to be like.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Hmm. That is such a good one. I'm going to say probably something that's really corny, but I would say a combination of my mom and dad because they are amazing people and I have no idea how they got me. It was kind of like one of those genetic mistakes. But there's so many things about my parents that are amazing. They were church school teachers, and I watched them work so hard their entire lives for really not a lot of money. We did not grow up with a lot of money. The places that we... I lived in a basement with orange boxes for walls for two years. It was because my parents felt called to go to this school in Utah. It's funny because I look back on those things as a kid, and I think some of them were the best experiences of my life. My mom is this amazing person. She’s got it all together. In fact, have you ever watched the movie Sleeping with the Enemy?

Japhet De Oliveira: Yes, I have.

Heather Preston Wheeler: I call my dad Julia Roberts, because if you go into my mom's pantry... I know. If you go into my mom's pantry, it's just like the woman is perfect. To kind of a frightening level. But I mean she's just this warm person. She's always giving to other people. My dad is half Russian and half German, so there's a combo.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Heather Preston Wheeler: He's such a searcher, is that a word? Did I just make one up?

Japhet De Oliveira: It's good. It is good.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Of truth. I've watched him evolve in his spiritual journey from when I was a kid there was a lot of rules. I don't know if that was kind of time where when I grew up. To someone who is really gone more into the study of the grace of Jesus Christ. I just admire how he has never stopped wanting to learn about Jesus. Both my parents are just, they're the kind of people where it's not like they just say it. They live it.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. That's beautiful. Great tribute to them, and to yourself, as well. That's wonderful to hear. That's good role models to aspire to. All right, that was 85.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Oh wow. Let's go to 90. These were just easy.

Japhet De Oliveira: See? All right. Well, tell us this, then about how you overcame something that was seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Well, I think you and I have talked about my story. When my second son died right before he was born, and it was just such, it was a shock. I had lived this... Life is never perfect, right? We all have our things, but retrospectively I had lived this charmed life, where I had never lost even a grandparent at that point. I remember thinking, "There's absolutely no way that I can lose a child. I can't. It won't happen to me. It'll never happen to me and I can't handle it." Well, it did and it was just something that really rocked my world.

I also will say that I think I really embraced it, which sounds strange, but I realized at some point that I had to really connect with my grief, and that it needed to be my grief. Everyone grieves differently and it needed to be my grief, and I needed to process it the way that I needed to process it, to get from the person that I was. Because it changes you as a person. I'm not the same person. The person that I was, which is also something you mourn, the person that I was to the person where I could find peace with what happened to my son. Finding peace is not meaning you're ever okay with what happened.

Japhet De Oliveira: Absolutely.

Heather Preston Wheeler: That was something that was a real difficult time in my life, and I really struggled with. I think going back to my question about mental illness, I've never... I've so been so fortunate to never be the type of person who struggled with that as a biological thing. But I struggled with that as a circumstantial thing during that time. I think I also have empathy for people who have issues with depression, because I don't know how you could live with that all the time.

I struggled with that and I almost lost my marriage over this. That's a common thing that comes out of that. Then my third son, he almost died as well. I remember thinking, "Wow, God." It was not an easy road with my third son. I remember thinking when I was having my third son, "Okay, this is going to help make things better." I wasn't over my grief with my second son, and I thought, "This is going to help make things better." Then I have this child who almost dies and has in multiple therapies and has tons of specialists and surgeries for the first three years of his life. It was just a really challenging time for me. I think everything's a choice, and I truly... Well, I would go back, I would never wish that my second son had died, but I cannot change that.

I truly live my life to honor him because I think the whole experience has made me a better, more compassionate person. Not that I'm perfect because I am not, and you can ask my husband and you can ask my children. But it's something I really had to overcome and I tried to do it on my own. I finally went to therapy, and it was almost a sense of pride for me. Like, "I got this, I'll read a book, I'll pray really hard." I came to a point where I realized that if my other two boys were ever going to have a mother who was happy again, I had to get professional help. I am so glad that I did, because I had this amazing therapist. I think this also ties into kind of my soft spot for that space, who literally, I believe saved my life in terms of my happiness. I was able to kind of move past that. But that's absolutely the biggest challenge that I've ever overcome in my life.

Japhet De Oliveira: Heather, I think, and I am aware of this amazing, amazing story but actually amazing journey that you've gone through in your life and the impact that you've had... That it's had on your own life and those that you have actually kind of galvanized and cared for further afield, as well, with so many other people that you've supported through something like this. I think that this season that we're in right now, it's a popular season, it's a wonderful season, my favorite season, Christmas season. But it can be a very hard time for some people, a blue Christmas for some people. They have a lot to deal with. What would be your word, your wisdom, your advice to them if they're going through a difficult time right now?

Heather Preston Wheeler: It's different for everyone, but I would say acknowledge it. For me, to this day we put up a stocking for our son who passed away. Because it's like, I think it's important to be able to find peace, but I think it's also important to acknowledge, because my son would be 16 in February this year. I still have times where it's really hard. His birthday's really hard for me. Christmas is hard. Do something to remember that person and also be kind to yourself.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yes.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Don't think that you can't be sad for a few moments. The other thing I would say to people who are around people who have had a loss or know that the... Acknowledge it with them, because you not saying anything doesn't mean they're... You're not going to bring something up to them that they're probably not already thinking about. Acknowledge it and be there for them.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, that's beautiful. Good words of wisdom. Absolutely. There are so many people that you can reach out to for help. Do not do this alone.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Correct.

Japhet De Oliveira: Right. Thank you, Heather. We have time for two more. What last two numbers do you want to tell me? Both or one at a time? Where would you like to go for your last two numbers?

Heather Preston Wheeler: Where were we?

Japhet De Oliveira: We were at 90.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Oh wow. Let's do 95 and 97.

Japhet De Oliveira: 95 and 97.

Heather Preston Wheeler: That's great.

Japhet De Oliveira: All right, then, all right.

Heather Preston Wheeler: I'm not going to 100.

Japhet De Oliveira: I am so glad that you chose 95.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Oh no.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, tell us.

Heather Preston Wheeler: It's a trap.

Japhet De Oliveira: No it's not. It's great. It's great for you. This is wonderful. Tell us about how you see your faith and life intersecting.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Oh wow.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Heather Preston Wheeler: That is a loaded question and it's so interesting and I have no problem talking about this, because I was raised in a Christian Seventh-day Adventist home. Honestly, I really think that it was just kind of something I did for a very long time. There was a part of me, and I even hate to admit this, where I kind of felt pretty special. I am a Christian, I love Jesus, and I did all these things, and I don't really think I ever chose Jesus Christ until my son died. Because at that point it's not about your religion anymore, it's about your faith. I think that's the thing... I think growing up, and there's nothing against religion of any kind, but I think sometimes you're spoon-fed, and you don't necessarily think about your personal relationship or faith walk.

Not that I didn't love the Lord, or love Jesus or believe in things, but I don't really think that it was... I was never tested with what that really meant until I lost my son. In that moment I really had to grapple with, "Do I even believe this? Do I even want..." I was angry at points. "What kind of God would let children die?" You go through all of these things and I really had to decide in that moment if I was going to be a follower of Jesus.

It really came down to that for me. I don't have all the answers. I think where I finally came to is it was kind of two separate things to me. I was raised in a certain religion and I'm always going to have that culture and that upbringing. There's a lot of wonderful things that come with that. But there's this whole other part where it has to be really personal, regardless of what your religion is or how you were raised, how you take that journey. You really have to have that personal moment. I remember I have come to this in my life, because I want to see my son again.

But yeah, truly it's a faith. I finally came... My religion, obviously I have the culture and the upbringing, but for me, I finally came to something really simple for myself. I believe in God because it gives me hope. I believe in Jesus Christ because he makes me want to be a better person on this earth. That's really what it came down to me.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's fantastic and beautiful. Love that. All right. I can't believe it. We're on our last number, number 97. Tell us about a time when you did the right thing.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Well, doing this podcast for one.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay, that's great. That's great. Well, I think this podcast is going to help a lot of people.

Heather Preston Wheeler: I think that that's a choice we make every day because I think every day we have an opportunity to do the right thing. I think that it's a series of ups and downs because we don't always choose to do the right thing. But I think that's what I like about a new day. You always have the option to do the right thing. I think that, of course, I've chosen to do the right thing many times in my life, but I've also chosen not to. I think learning from times and giving yourself grace when you don't, right? But waking up every day and thinking, "How can I make a difference in someone else's life?" I think for me, it's really simple. It might just be saying hi to someone. Some of the biggest impactful moments of touching my life were just random stranger's kindness to me.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Heather Preston Wheeler: I remember once, and I will never forget this man, I don't know his name, I don't know where he is to this day, but it has impacted my life. These are the moments where I think doing the right thing, called kindness, impacts people's lives. I had two little kids and I had to go to the DMV and whoever, no one wants to go there. I was not in a good mood. My kids were whiny, one was crying, I had a baby. I just remember this man being so kind to me, I don't even remember what I was doing there, but he brought me a chair. This is the DMV.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sure.

Heather Preston Wheeler: He asked me if he could bring me some water. You know what? In that moment he changed my life that day. Right?

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Because I was no longer angry. I was just like, "Oh my word. This man is being so kind to me." To know that we have that power when we choose to do the right thing, which I think is kindness to our fellow human beings. Every day, we probably have multiple opportunities to change someone's life by doing the right thing, by being kind, going out of our way for them. It can be a simple thing. It doesn't have to be this earth shattering, "I really did the right thing today."

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. That is so good. Heather. Heather, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you for sharing stories. It is been a delight for your honesty and encouraging word to so many people. It has been fantastic. I want to encourage people to do the same. Those of you listening right now, sit down with a friend, ask them some good questions. Learn, as Heather said, as well. We learn from each other, we discover more and we are transformed. We are changed, as well. I see a nodding with the head.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Heather's with me on that. All right. This is good. Hey, God bless you. God bless everybody else, and take care and we'll connect soon. Thanks again, Heather.

Heather Preston Wheeler: Thank you.

Narrator: Thank you for joining us for The Story & Experience Podcast. We invite you to read, watch, and submit your story and experience at AdventistHealth.org/story. The Story & Experience Podcast was bought to you by Adventist Health through the Office of Culture.