Sunday Driving

October 31, 2008

Growing up, Sunday meant church, family time, a roast with potatoes and carrots for dinner, and every once in awhile, a Sunday drive. On those Sundays when my parents felt so inclined, they would load my three brothers and one sister into the family station wagon and we would go Sunday driving (it was the 70s, so everyone had station wagons, ours was green with wood paneling).

I grew up in Boise, Idaho. Both my mom and dad also grew up in Boise. This meant that the drives on Sunday were usually a drive down memory lane. They would point out the schools they attended, the homes they used to live in, the playgrounds where they used to play, and any other little piece of nostalgia that came up along the way. As a 10-year-old boy the stop I hated above all else was when my dad would pull the car to the side of the road, point out a specific lamp post and say, “Kids, this is where I used to kiss your mother.” At that point in my life, girls were something to be chased at recess but never kissed. Although I knew my dad had some responsibility to kiss my mom, I really didn’t want to hear about it.

On our Sunday drives my parents were in sheer bliss. As kids, we were in utter misery. We had no idea where we’re going, and cared little about getting there. We were bored and tired and the only thing we really look forward to was getting home. The sooner it was over the better.

Conversely, every summer meant a summer vacation. We couldn’t wait. My dad would throw the same five kids in the same green, wood paneled station wagon and we were filled with vigor and excitement. It didn’t matter if we left at ten at night or four in the morning, we were literally giddy. The whole way we were singing. We would sing the Hall family song, “We are the Halls, the Stephen J. Halls, wherever we go, people want to know, who we are, so we tell ’em,” or some version of, “99 bottles of (milk) on the wall” (Being Mormon, we didn’t sing about beer very often.)

What changed? It was the same kids in the same car. How could we be miserable Sunday driving then ecstatic on our way to our summer vacation. The difference was the destination.

En route to our summer vacation we knew where we were going and were excited to get there. Goals that are specific, written down and measurable help us define the destinations in our lives. They help us know where we are going and motivate us to be excited to get their. When we have goals that we have set up properly, keeping ourselves accountable all the way, we not only become driven but we allow that drive to take us all the way to our dreams.

Then, with goals clearly set and destination known we find ourselves excited even giddy about every day. Regardless of our start or how far we have to go we are filled with vigor and joy, singing all the way.

Jh-


Be A Fan

October 29, 2008
Once a fan, always a fan.

Once a fan, always a fan.

Everyone has their little addictions. For me, it has always been sports. As far back as I can remember I have been a sports fan.  Throughout my entire life one of my true pleasures has been watching nearly every sport out there.

I love college basketball and football (big BYU fan) I love the NBA (particularly the Jazz, Celtics, and any team Danny Ainge played for). I love the NFL (don’t even get me started talking about the Cowboys). I love Major League Basball (crazy about Jeter and the Yankees). I love the NHL (I have two Rangers jerseys). I love tennis, and golf (Lendl, Jimmy Mac, Agassi, Nicklaus, Woods).  I love Major league soccer (go Real Salt Lake). And,like everyone else on the planet, I love the Olympics (USA! USA!)

However, as much I was ever a sports nut, I just couldn’t get into racing. NASCAR, Indy Car, all of it just seemed boring to me. I mean how many times can you watch someone make a left hand turn. How much strategy could there really be?   So, when the auto racing portion of my morning SportsCenter came on, I just tuned out and waited for them to get back to the “real sports.”

Then my brother Brandon married a girl whose father was involved in both stock-car and open wheel racing. This got me a little interested. Wanting to know more about my new sister-in-laws family, I started to watch the races. I was surprised, they weren’t earth shatteringly interesting, but there weren’t immensely boring either. As I learned more about the sport, I learned which cars and which drivers were associated with her family. The next time I watched, I had someone to root for.

This changed everything. I was totally and completely hooked. Four and five hundred mile races that before seemed to take an eternity were now over far too quickly. The pitstops that were previously just lulls in an already long race were now critical pieces of a clear-cut strategy where .10 of a second could mean the difference between victory and defeat.

What changed? The sport certainly didn’t. The heads of NASCAR and the IRL weren’t sitting at their headquarters wondering how they could hook Jason Hall.

I had changed. I had become a fan. Cheering on a specific driver and a specific team made all the difference. The races became more interesting and more fun. What used to be long, dull, and boring was now exciting, invigorating, and always all too short. I rarely miss a race now. I can’t always watch them live, but through the miracle of TiVo I catch every one.

Like my experience with racing our lives can become exciting and inspiring to be a part of if we will simply become fans. We need to be fans of the people we know, cheering them on to victory in whatever pursuit they choose. We need to root for our children, our spouses, our friends, and our neighbors.

We need to root for our country and the values that made it great. We need to cheer for our communities and our churches and our schools. For, whether we attend them or not, they are still part of us. We need to cheer for good art, movies, and music. We need to stop sitting on the sidelines and start becoming involved. We need to become fans.

People today have become too dedicated to the “scarcity mentality.” They believe that someone else’s victory somehow decreases their chances to win. When we become fans, the, “scarcity mentality” goes away and is replaced with an, “abundance mentality.” We then began to realize that everyone can succeed.  In truth, success breeds success. Therefore, when we see another do well it only improves our chances to do the same.

So be a fan, and notice how much more you enjoy every inning, quarter, half, lap, set, hole, minute, and second of your life.

Jh-


Stuck and Freezing

October 28, 2008
The 1989 Borah High School Rowdies

The 1989 Borah High School Rowdies

When I returned home from the hospital and tried to find a way to stay involved the way I wanted to at my high school as a quadriplegic. My biggest obstacle was going to be sports. I knew that although 6’2” almost 300 pounds would look good on the stat sheet, 6’2” almost 300 pounds and paralyzed from the chest down wouldn’t have the same pop on the field.

Unable to participate in the sports I loved so well, a few friends and I began a spirit club called, “The Rowdies.” This allowed me to cheer on my former teammates while still being involved on my own.  We did the whole nine yards. We had T-shirts printed up, put on pep rallies, and painted our faces at the games.

After the games we’d all meet at a local pizza place and do all the crazy things high school students do at restaurants after 10 PM, until either the place closed or we were “invited” to leave.

One night, after the game was over and we were finished at the pizza place, I headed home and pulled in my driveway. As I did, I noticed that my parents had parked one car in the garage and another on the driveway. This was a problem. I was supposed to park in the garage. This gave me plenty of room for the automatic doors to open, the lift to come down, and provided easy access to the elevator in our home.

It was a little after 12:30 AM. Because it was late, I decided that I’d maneuver my van in the driveway the best I could and find a place to park without waking my parents up (my being late for curfew may have also had some bearing on that decision). As I opened the door to put out the lift, I remember feeling an incredible chill in the air. It was the middle of basketball season and a particularly cold late December night.

The lift folded out of my van, and I rolled my wheelchair onto the platform. It was freezing and I couldn’t wait to get inside a nice warm house. Still just wearing my short sleeved “Rowdies” T-shirt, I lowered the lift to the ground. What I didn’t know was the concrete underneath my lowered lift was just a little uneven. With the weight of my wheelchair on the lift, the platform was flush against the ground. However, as my front wheels came off the lift there is no longer enough weight to keep the lift even on the uneven driveway.

The lift rose up just enough that it high centered my wheelchair. The front wheels were on the ground but the back wheels weren’t touching a thing. Unfortunately, my chair was only rear wheel drive. As I move the joystick back and forth the wheels simply spun in the air. I was stuck.

For the first 15 minutes I did everything I could to see if I could reach back and use the controls on the lift to put the platform down and give my wheels a chance at some traction. It didn’t take long to realize that regardless of my best efforts this was not going to be a winning proposition. And so, I moved on.

I thought if I could call out loud enough, I could wake up my parents and they could help me off the lift. I quietly called out for them, “Mom… Dad.” I was hoping I could get their attention without waking the whole neighborhood. After 15-30 minutes of that I began to raise my voice, with the same results-still nothing.

As the temperature dropped so to did my concern for the other people in my neighborhood. I began to yell, “Mom… Dad.” I was sure that I was loud enough to wake up my parents and maybe the people across the street. Unfortunately, although my volume increased my results did not–still nothing.

Now I was cold, freezing cold, and so at the top of my voice I screamed, “Mom… Dad.” Twenty to thirty minutes of that without any result convinced me that World War III could begin in my front yard and my parents would sleep straight through it. Giving up on my mom and dad I began to yell and scream and names of our neighbors. “Mr. Nielsen… Mrs. Bishop,” I called with everything I had. Although the names for different, the result was the same–nothing.

It was almost three in the morning, and I was running out of options. It was then that I came up with an idea that couldn’t fail. At the top of my lungs I screamed, “Rape, Fire, Murder.” Twenty minutes later I realized that this idea would fail when it yielded me the same result–nothing, absolutely nothing.

I had one option left. In my hand was a tiny metal rod that held the keys to my van. I thought that if I could throw them hard enough, I could break our front window, the alarm would go off and I would be saved. Knowing this was my last resort, I took a few practice throws. This was going to work, I was sure of it. I aimed carefully, pull back my arm and let the keys fly.

It was a beautiful throw, perfectly on target. As I turned my head in preparation for the shrill of the alarm, like a boomerang, the metal rod turned to the left and fell silently on the ground. It was well past three and I was out of ideas. I tucked my arms inside my T-shirt, strapped myself in and prepared for what I was sure was going to be a long winter’s nap.

Just then, I had one last idea. In my mind I heard the words, “Did you pray?” I remember thinking that I had not and that at best it might help me and at worst it couldn’t hurt.

As I said, “Amen,” my mom walked out the door. She looked at me and said, “Do you need some help?” I remember laughing in my heart thinking, “No Mom, I’m good. Just wanted you to know I’m freezing to death. Please go back in to your nice warm bed.” Not wanting to tempt fate with my smart aleck remarks, I told her I did need her help to which she replied, “I’ll get your father.”

By the time I got to my bed I was so cold that the only way we could warm up my body was for my mom to sleep with me in my bed and try and raise my body temperature with hers. The next day we looked in the paper and saw that the temperatures had become low enough that with my body’s poor circulation I most likely would not have survived the night.

Stuck on the lift I did everything I could do on my own, to no avail.  I tried any idea anyone could’ve come up with. On paper, there was nothing else left for me to do. But just like that night there are times in our lives when every conceivable physical option won’t be enough, and we have to turn to the spiritual. Regardless of what God you worship or spirituality you call your own, the things of the Spirit must find their way into our lives if we want to find our way to success.

So, next time you find yourself freezing and stuck, don’t forget to pray.

Jh-


Sudoku: The Puzzle With All The Answers

October 25, 2008
A finished Sudoku puzzle

A finished Sudoku puzzle

About a year ago I became a part of the Sudoku craze. I was getting ready to go on a big trip, and that meant loading up my iPod with new music and maybe a movie or two. It was around that time Apple allowed you to load games onto your iPod as well. Looking around for a game that would give me something to do on the plane, I decided on Sudoku.

I had never really played the game before, but I’d heard that it was fun and one that could effectively eat up some time. The game had good ratings on iTunes and so I decided to spend the $7.99 and take a chance.

Later, on the plane, the flight attendants let us know that we were cleared to use our electronic devices. I pulled out my iPod, opened up the game, and within about 15 minutes I was addicted. I played the game on the entire flight, throughout the entire weekend, during the flight home, and every night for the next two months. It got to a point where I would play it deep into the night, and then, when I finally tried to go to sleep I would see the empty boxes in my dreams.

It was in the midst of this compulsion that I realized that lying in front of me on my iPod was actually an excellent type for life.

The only way you can win at the game of Sudoku is to make sure that every line and every square is perfectly completed with the numbers one through nine. Each number however, can only be used once. That way, every line and every square uses each number carefully and uniquely.

Like the numbers in Sudoku’s squares, we are all each of us unique. There is only one  “1”, only one ”2”, and so on. Also, just like the puzzle, we work hard to find the place where we belong. If we try to hard to be just like the other numbers in our line or square things begin to fall apart.

In the end, the game is only successfully completed when all the spots are filled with their unique values. Like the puzzle, our experience in this lifetime fails if it is simply filled with a different version of the same person. Conversely, our lives are complete when they are filled with people from all walks of life, with all sorts of experiences and any “number” of ideas.

So, let’s use Sudoku every day by being comfortable with who we are, not worrying about copying others. Let’s keep our “value” by being true to who we are. And, let’s fill the lines and squares of our lives with people that are different, always learning from their unique experiences. Following these instructions, our lives will become more rich, successful, and complete.

Sudoku really is the puzzle with all the answers.

Jh-


A Comment You Have To See

October 23, 2008

Obviously I love all my comments, but I got one for my “Cooked Bananas” post everyone just needed to see, and, since everyone doesn’t always read the comments, I had to post it here

Lyn Meeker wrote:

So I “Took one for the team” … I had some sliced ham .. I had banana’s .. I didn’t have cheese sauce … but I took a piece of banana and wrapped the ham around it and tasted it… all I can say is .. I don’t think the cheese sauce would have helped it at all .. I don’t think it would have disguised the odd taste and most certainly not the very weird texture between the ham and banana… And heating it all up would not have improved it one bit! .. I’m so glad that you were able to convince the nurse of your need for cafeteria food! And it makes you wonder if the cooking staff were having a contest to see who could come up with the weirdest concoctions!

Talk about courage. You are awesome Lyn.  I think she deserves a shoutout from the team.  Check yes if you agree, and/or leave one of your own in the comments.


Cooked Bananas or Grilled Cheese?

October 23, 2008

In the summer of 1986 my diving accident put me in the hospital for three months. I wasn’t there long before I realized that the myths and legends I had heard about the horrors of hospital food were all true. It’s amazing the things that they can come up with in a hospital kitchen.

While I was in ICU, they brought every meal to my room. Once I moved to the rehab floor and my health improved, I would go to what they called the “Day Room” to eat lunch and dinner with the rest of the patients in the unit. They wanted us out of our rooms as much as possible and the camaraderie I had with the other quadriplegics made the days go faster.

In the “Day Room,” we would sit and wait until the food service workers brought us our food. They would walk in, load up the buffet bar with the food, and then stand back and announce what we would be eating that day. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words “Liver,” “Goulash,” or, “Scrod”   They even found a Way to screw up the things that actually sounded good, like lasagna, burritos, or hoagies (I mean seriously, how hard is it to make a hoagie). No matter how bad the food was our options were few. In fact, there was only one way out.

Each week every patient could get one pass. This pass allowed you to go down to the hospital cafeteria and order anything you pleased. I understand that to the average reader the hospital cafeteria doesn’t sound like much of an out. But, when you’re stuck in the hospital the cafeteria sounds like the finest steakhouse in the world. In my life I have learned there are few places that execute a grilled cheese sandwich as well as a hospital cafeteria.

A tasty grilled cheese sandwich

A tasty grilled cheese sandwich

We treated these passes like gold. You had to be very careful that you didn’t squander your pass on something that was mildly bad when something terribly bad could be coming later in the week. At the same time, you didn’t want to hoard your pass  and eat something terribly bad when the rest of the week would only be filled with the mildly bad.

For the most part, if you were smart, between the food that friends and family would smuggle in and the passes a person could make it without having to eat anything you’d later regret.

One week however, the kitchen staff really outdid themselves. We ate bad meal after bad meal, and by Saturday everyone had used their passes. That Saturday, just like every other Saturday, they brought in the trays, loaded up the buffet, turned, and announced the meal.

They said, “Tonight’s dinner is a delicacy,  We’ve prepared cooked bananas, wrapped in ham, dipped in cheese sauce.”  I couldn’t believe it! I had never heard of anything like this in my entire life. I remember thinking, “I don’t know where that’s a delicacy, but I never want to go there.”

Cooked bananas, wrapped in ham, dipped in cheese sauce.

This was bad. This was the worst meal we had ever been served by a mile, and none of us had a pass left. We looked at each other with great concern, and then made a decision. We would go to the nurses together and ask them to give us an extra pass.

We all headed to the nurse’s station. I’m sure this was quite a sight. A gaggle of people, men and women, sitting and standing, with wheelchairs and walkers, using canes and crutches heading down the hall. With all this in front of her, the head nurse figured out a way to get all of us passes, and together we headed down to the hospital cafeteria.

That day, I learned the power of cooperating with my fellow man. I saw that as a group we could get more done, more effectively, and more quickly.  I’m quite sure that had I gone to the head nurse on my own, she could have found a way to turn me down and send me back to the cooked bananas in failure. But, together, I realized that not only did we get to enjoy the cafeteria’s grilled cheese, were able to get a taste of success as well. This experience showed me that if I thought of the well-being of the group instead of only selfishly considering myself I could increase my potential and productivity.

Since then, I have found the same concept to be true in the normal every days of my life. When I think only of myself I am able to get a few things done. But, when I think of how my efforts can not only benefit me but can enable others as well it is amazing what can be accomplished. When groups truly cooperate and synergize, then the talents of the many are maximized and the weaknesses of the few forgotten.

So, next time you have to choose between doing things only for yourself, or cooperating and utilizing the power of the group ask yourself; cooked bananas, or grilled cheese?

Jh-


Garcia’s and Kolette’s Hand

October 21, 2008

Somewhere around the middle of March 1992 I decided that Kolette was the right one for me and I was going to ask her to marry me. I have been raised in such a way I knew before I could ask Kolette her opinion on the matter, I needed to get her fathers permission.

One afternoon in between classes at BYU, I called Gary Coleman (Kolette’s dad) and tried my best to make some small talk. Once we had reviewed everything happening with the local sports teams and there was nothing else to review, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind meeting me at a restaurant for lunch (as if he had absolutely no idea why we were getting together).

Kolette’s dad was a man of some note in our community, and someone I have a great deal of respect for. Therefore, I was at the least a little fearful and at most scared out of my shorts to have such a meeting. It wasn’t anything that he had done, he had always been genuinely kind and easy to talk to when we had spoken before. But, this was a different matter altogether and I was nervous that he might not think I measured up.

I picked a restaurant called Garcia’s.  It was about halfway between where he and I lived. I was too anxious to go one-on-one with him at his house where he would have home-field advantage, and so I tried to pick a place that was more of a neutral site. He agreed to location and now all I had to do was try to find a way to sleep until the day of the meeting arrived

Finally, the day came. I got in my handicap accessible van and made the trip to the restaurant. I’m not exactly a person known for his punctuality, but that day was no ordinary day and I was not going to be late. I arrived at the restaurant a half-hour before we were scheduled to meet. Sitting in my, van feeling like my brain could explode, I thought it would be a good idea to take my mind off the situation. Trying to do so, I used the car phone in my van to call a man interested in helping me with a writing project. This was a big project for me, and I was sure that it would take my mind off the matter at hand.

What I didn’t know, was that the man interested in helping me was also quite a talker. This was great for the first 25 minutes, but as time continued to move on my nerves came back times ten. The clock kept inching closer and closer to our meeting time and I could not get him off the phone. Eventually, the man I hoped to convince to be my father-in-law pulled up. He got out of his car, saw me still sitting in my van and began to walk over to where I was parked. Still, I could not get this man off the phone. Mr. Coleman was now standing outside my window looking at his watch. I made one more attempt at getting the man off the phone and when that didn’t work I simply hung up. I figured he’d understand.

We went into the restaurant and for reasons that I cannot explain I was scared silly, and sweating profusely.  I couldn’t do a thing to stop it. It seemed as though my nerves opened every pore in my body and released the floodgates. Even though it looked like I had just been dropped in a dunk tank at the local carnival I kept wiping my brow hoping he wouldn’t notice.

The hostess sat us at our table, gave us our menus and left.  Normally, I’m a pretty talkative person. People who know me would not describe me as someone who quietly kept to themselves. But sitting there across the table from this man I couldn’t think of a thing to say. So, I did what any normal person would do and asked him what he thought about the graphic design work on the menus.

I told him that I felt the work was incredible. Not sure where this was going, he halfheartedly agreed. I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of my mouth. I was trying to tell this man I wanted to marry his daughter and the best I could come up with was the artwork on the menus. I knew if I was going to have any real chance I had to come up with something better than that, so I began to ask him about his family.

I started with his wife and then asked about every child from oldest to youngest. Not quite ready to broach the subject of Kolette I skipped her altogether. Mr. Coleman gave me an odd look wondering if I had forgotten about the very daughter he thought we were there to talk about (although at this point I’m sure he was rethinking why we were there at all).

Finally, I knew it was time to get to the point. The look on his face told me that if I brought up the decorations on the wall I might lose the deal completely.

I mustered up every ounce of courage I could put together and said, “Mr. Coleman, I love…” And before I could even finish the sentence, a waitress came up and asked if we are ready to order. I gave her the dirtiest look I had given any one in a long time. “I was there,” I thought, “I was almost finished.” But, knowing that things were tenuous already, I placed my order.

This was something I had given a lot of thought to. Without the use of my hands I often require help when I eat at restaurants. Sometimes, if the dishes particularly large or messy I need someone to cut up the food or reposition the meal. And, because I was here trying to convince the man across the table that I could take care of his daughter I didn’t think having him reach over at the table to cut up my food would set the right tone.

When the waitress asked, I ordered a cheese quesadilla and asked her if she would have the people in the back cut it up for me. It would be hard for me to spill a cheese quesadilla, and if the waitress cut it up before she brought it out than I could eat it all by myself.

She took the order and I knew that it was now or never and I blurted out, “Mr. Coleman, I love your daughter and I’d like your permission to marry her.” It seemed like an eternity before he answered. I sat there for what I’m sure was at least two seconds, waiting for his answer.

He looked at me with his kind eyes and told me that he and his wife had been expecting this for some time. He told me that they were excited for the news and that I had his blessing. You can imagine the weight that was lifted off my shoulders. All I had to do now was make it through the rest of the meal and I can ask my girlfriend to be my fiancé.

As we talked about our future plans, and what types of things filled my hopes and dreams, the waitress brought out the food. The quesadilla had been cut exactly as I asked. She placed the plate in front of me she warned me that it might still be hot. My future father-in-law began to dig into his food and so I did the same.

I stuck my fork into one of the corner pieces and began to lift it to my mouth. As I did I realized that the waitress wasn’t lying, and that the plate was in fact hot. It was so hot that it had melted cheese in the quesadilla back together. When I went to lift the single bite to my mouth I picked up the entire plate of food.

I had done everything in my power to avoid it but now I had no other option. I had to ask Mr. Coleman to cut up my food. He agreed and as he leaned over the table to slice up my food like I was four years old I remember thinking in my head, “Sure I can take care of your daughter, but, will you purée my food?”

The meal was finally over, and I remember thinking that if I had any brains at all I would get the check and get out of there before anything else could go wrong.  The waitress brought the check and when she did Mr. Coleman offered to go Dutch and pay for his half of the meal. I told him I wouldn’t hear of it. This was my meeting, I had invited him, and an effort to show that things in my life were financially sound, I would pay.

I reached behind my wheelchair to grab the black bag that holds my wallet, and much to my dismay, it was gone. Just before I left, my roommate borrowed my black bag to grab something out of my wallet, and had forgotten to put it back. I didn’t have a penny to my name. I wondered how long it would take someone who could not move their hands to wash enough dishes to pay for our meal.

Knowing this wasn’t an option, I turned to him and explained what had happened, apologizing profusely and committing to him that if it were the last thing I ever did I would pay him back.  He agreed, and the waitress picked up his credit card with the check.  He paid the bill, and it seemed as though lunch was over. I was so excited I would’ve done a backflip if I could have.

Because I was still sweating, my mouth was parched. And so before we left, I reached out to get one last drink. I steadied the glass between my two hands, lifted up and began to salivate as the water looked so crisp, clean and refreshing. Then, just before I put the cup to my lips I lost control of the glass and spilled water all over my lap. I couldn’t have aimed worse if I tried. Sitting there, I looked as though I had just wet my pants.

We left the restaurant, and as we stood in the parking lot at about to go to our separate cars, I looked up at him and said, “It’s not too late to change your mind.”  He chuckled, and told me that everything was fine.

As I think about that day I think about the many opportunities that I had to quit, to give up, and just try again some other time. From the very beginning to the very end everything went awry. There are regular days in our regular lives they go the same way. Nothing goes right and everything goes wrong. On those days, we have the same choice that I had on that fateful day at Garcia’s asking for Kolette’s hand.

If we quit, there’s a good chance things will get easier. But at what cost? There’s little question that my day would have been easier had I left when I couldn’t get the man off the phone, started sweating, reviewed the menu, had to have my food cut up, forgot my wallet, or spilt the water. Quitting anywhere along the way would have saved me a lot of embarrassment, and a ton of discomfort. The cost however would have been unthinkable.

The years that I have been married to my wife have been the best years I have spent on the face of this earth. She makes every day brighter, every color more beautiful, and every experience more sweet. She truly is my reason for living. Giving up that day in that restaurant across from her father might have cost me Kolette.

Similarly, when we endure the difficult days that present themselves as we move through our lives when we think of giving up we have to also consider the cost.  Who knows what experiences await you through the adversities each day brings.

So move forward and remember that the rewards that await you are worth the struggle. Who knows, without Garcia’s I may never have had Kolette’s hand.

Jh-


Shun Fujimoto

October 18, 2008
Shun Fujimoto after the Montreal Games

Shun Fujimoto after the Montreal Games

The 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada was host to one of the greatest acts of courage in Olympic history. The Japanese team arrived with high hopes for Olympic gold. They knew however that in order to achieve this lofty goal they would have to win out over the incredibly strong Russian team.

As competition began Shun Fujimoto, a member of that Japanese team, found himself up against unthinkable decision. During his floor exercise, he’d broken his leg. He now had to choose whether he would continue, working to help his teammates succeed, or, give up and hope for the best. Obviously having had this kind of injury no one would question his lack of desire to move on.

But,he did move on.  He reasoned that his teammates would need every point he could contribute. So, without telling anyone, the judges, his teamates, or even his coach, Shun moved on to the next apparatus; the pommel horse. He did well in this event, scoring a 9.5 out of a maximum 10 points. As difficult and daunting as this task was he knew that it would pale in comparison to what lie ahead.

The apparatus that followed was the rings. Shun knew that success in this event would be largely dictated by his ability to successfully complete the high-flying dismount. The level of concentration this challenge would require would be an entirely different matter altogether. But, true to form and thinking of the success of the team he assumed his position and began his routine.

Shun flew around the rings in near perfection. His performance was almost flawless. But as he moved through his routine he knew that in order to get the score required he would have to nail his dismount, a triple somersault with a twist.

Tears filled his eyes as Shun’s leg absorbed the force from his 136 pound body hitting the mat. His leg gave way just a bit, and gritting his teeth he threw his arms in the air.

He tore ligaments in his leg, dislocated his knee and had to withdraw from the rest of the events, but, in the end, the judges awarded him a 9.7, the highest score of his career. The Japanese team was awarded the gold and they beat the Russians by .4 points (the smallest margin of victory in the history of the Olympics). Everyone on the team knew that without Shun’s courage this victory would never have been achieved.

Later, reporters asked Shun about his experience. He replied;

“It brought tears to my eyes. But now I have a gold medal, and the pain is gone.”

In our lives there are surely times when we have to pull together all the courage that we can muster, and move forward. Often, we feel injured, or less than a whole, and many times are “teams” success relies on our ability to complete the tasks that are ours.

We will do better and more easily find the wherewithal to succeed if we will remember Shun’s words and example. For, no matter how difficult our struggle is today as we work towards our goals with dedication and resolve, then someday like Shun we may be able to say;

“[The adversities in my life] brought tears to my eyes. But, now I have [reached my goals] and the pain is gone.”

Jh-

Below you can find a short video on Shun


Buyin’ Slurpees

October 17, 2008
My therapist outside 7-Eleven

My therapist and I outside 7-Eleven

As a result of my auto accident I spent a straight 13 months in the hospital. The first few I was working just to stay alive. After that months were spent overcoming the surgeries that were required to fix my broken body. Once I had been in the hospital for about five months it was time for me to learn to sit up again.  When you lay flat on your back for that long, your lungs begin to settle making it necessary to strengthen your lungs such that they can operate with your body upright. The first day the therapists came in to “teach” me how to sit up, I lasted only a few seconds. Literally the therapists lifted me out of bed, I passed out, and they put me back in bed. That day, I knew that this was going to be a long process.

I didn’t do much better the rest of the week. But slowly, a few seconds turned into a few more and I was able to set up long enough to realize that I was sitting up. With the passing out phase gone, he was onward and upward. 10 seconds turned into 20 which eventually became 30, and before I knew it, I was sitting up for a full minute. That minute turned into five minutes, then 15 and on and on until I could set up for one full hour.

Unfortunately, once I reached an hour I hit a wall. Try as I might, I simply could not sit up for longer than an hour. I went at the problem from every angle I could think of, and every angle the therapists came up with as well.

By this time it was summer and since it was beautiful outdoors and I had spent far too long indoors my therapists would take me outside and let me do my exercises there. The young men that served as therapists at the care center were all about my age and we shared a common interests. So, by this time we had become friends. And after my therapy was over they would take a few minutes and walk up and down a path that was behind the hospital. It was always time I cherished. The path went right along a little river and felt a million miles away from the bed I had spent so much time in.

One day, on one of these walks as my body began to hit that wall telling me that I had almost sat up for an hour, my therapist, Kelly Alvord, told me that at the end of the path there was a 7-Eleven. He said that if I could make it to the end of the path than he would buy me a Slurpee.

By this time in my life I had been eating hospital food for nearly 7 months, and a Slurpee sounded like ambrosia. I don’t know that I can recall a time before or since then the thing ever sounded so good to me. Positive that I could make it to the 7-Eleven and back before my body would give out I excitedly agreed.

We got to the 7-Eleven, I got my cherry Slurpee (large) and we made our way back to the care center. As I sat in my room trying to suck every last molecule of that Slurpee, I looked at the clock. The distraction of the Slurpee had allowed me to sit up for an hour and a half. An hour and a half, half again as long as I had ever been able to sit up before.

Every day one of the therapists from East Lake would take me outside to do my therapy, and then walk me down the path to 7-Eleven. And, every day they would walk a little slower. With my mind on my Slurpee I set up for an hour and a half consistently. That hour and a half turned into two, and then three hours. The barrier was broken. Once my body had the strength to sit up for three hours on a regular basis I could continue on by myself. Their Slurpee trips allowed me to gain the strength to sit up all day long.

I later learned that in order for them to have the time to make my 7-Eleven journey possible they gave up their breaks, and their lunches, and sometimes had to stay later to complete the work they were required to do. This gift of their time changed my life. I say that with absolutely no hyperbole. They literally changed my life.

Every day I wake up and am able to sit up for the entire day is a gift from these therapists. Had they not been willing to spend their time buyin’ Slurpees who’s to say that I still wouldn’t be stuck in bed.

These made a difference in my life because they helped me find purpose. Our Slurpee runs made a difference as they changed my days from sitting up for the sake of sitting up to sitting up to get my Slurpee. This purpose helped me progress.

How then can we follow the example of these good young men. What things can we be a part of that can help give direction to another’s life?  Everyone wants to be about something, and a part of something that matters. When you find those people who  needed distraction from the frustrations in their lives, share some of your purpose with them.

Maybe, you have an assignment at work and could use a helping hand. Maybe, you’re part of a committee in your community that could use another’s help. Maybe, there’s work to be done at your church, or charitable group that someone else might participate in. When you find those people who need a little purpose and involve them, in these ways or others, you will change their lives and are real and meaningful way. With absolute surety and complete confidence I can tell you that there are people you know and interact with on a daily basis who need a little purpose; who need a Slurpee.

As my body needed strengthening, so to might someone’s courage. Like my lungs needed to stay upright, so to might someone’s attitude. In the same way I hit a wall,  someone you know maybe stuck as well. In the end, all it will take to help them find the strength, stay upright, and breakthrough their barriers is a little shared purpose.  As the quote says:

Happy are those whose purpose has found them.

There are countless ways to help others better enjoy their life. By sharing some of the purpose we’ve found in ours we can help in ways we might never have imagined. I know those therapists had little idea that change their purpose would have in my life.

As we walk down the path of life let us never forget the purpose and an influence we can share by buyin’ Slurpees.

Jh-


One Hour

October 14, 2008

Hard times and bad days are a part of everyone’s life. No matter how dedicated we become to having a positive attitude, no matter how much effort we put in to looking at the good in our lives, life is filled with adversity and difficulty. The most positive, optimistic, cup half-full person in the world will have times when the experiences in their life becomes so overwhelming that they can barely put their heads in their hands.

As I travel around the world and have the opportunity to meet thousands of people in thousands of circumstances,  no matter where I go and no matter who I meet, invariably someone asks how I have dealt with the tremendous adversities that have been a part of my life.  the question is usually followed by a story of a substantial struggle or difficulty that has recently been either a part of their life, or the life of someone close to them.

When this question comes, and it does more than any other, I do my best to share some insight that might help them deal with the hardship that is become a part of their life experience. Depending on the adversity and the situation, I will try and find different pieces and parts of my experience to help. But, no matter the adversity or the situation, there is one piece of advice that I always share.

In the days and weeks after I broke my neck my life literally hung in the balance. Even on the good days the doctors were unsure if I was going to make it. One doctor remarked that in his over 20 years as a pulmonologist, I had the worst case of pneumonia he had ever seen. At 15 years of age this was a wake-up call to the fragility and uncertainty of life. At a young age I got the opportunity to gain just a little understanding about the incredible gift that living is.

This realization, as powerful as it was, could not stay the sadness, frustration, and anger that my adversities brought to my everyday.  But, what this understanding did do was help me realize that life was too short to be spent mired in depression. So, I made a decision.

I decided that when the difficulties were too much to bear, I could take one hour. I gave myself one hour to be down, depressed, frustrated and mad. During this hour I could kick, bite, cry, scratch, scream, throw things, sob, or sulk. I could sit in silence. I could talk of giving up, and I could think about how life was unfair.

But, when an hour was over, I had to make sure that the depression, the frustration, the anger, the sorrow, the weeping, the wailing, and the gnashing of teeth had to be over as well.

This little bit of inspiration saved me. It gave me the chance to get out all those feelings of sorrow and ineptitude all the while keeping me from getting caught in that never-ending spiral of depression and gloom. It took discipline to keep it to an hour especially on those really bad days. But, every time I remained dedicated to the ideal I found my life to be better and my prospects brighter.

Life is hard. Everyone knows that personally and intimately. We, all of humanity, deal with difficult, arduous adversities that push us to the very brink, and we need time to express the frustrations that come from our hardships. However, although it is true that life is hard, it is also true that life is short — too short to be spent concentrating on the repugnant and forgetting about the elegant.

At the end of the day. all the anger and frustration in the world won’t change our situation. All the depression and sorrow you can muster won’t chase the adversity from your life. Whether we are happy or sad, we will still have to find our way through the difficulties that are part of everyone’s life.

I know that happy or sad I will still be a quadriplegic. Happy or sad, I will still be unable to move my hands. Happy or sad. I will still be unable to walk, and happy or sad, I will still be in a wheelchair — so I might as well take an hour and enjoy the ride.

Jh-


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