Number 99

November 26, 2008
One Grateful Little Boy

One Grateful Little Boy

In those first days in the hospital after breaking my neck my parents kept my spirits up by creating a list of my blessings and reading it to me every day. Some time after that on a day when I was feeling a little down I decided to pull out a piece of paper and write down 100 things I had to be grateful for.

I had no idea how difficult a task I had set before myself. The first 25 were easy. There were things like family and friends, a good home with good food. The second 25 took a little more energy and a little more thought. The third 25 made me really think. To complete my list the final 25 consisted of any little thing I could think of. I was thankful for ketchup, light bulbs, socks, etc. If I could see it it went down on my paper. Number 99 on that list was the fact that I could pick my nose.

There was a time in my life when I couldn’t pick my nose. When you have to ask someone to help you pick your nose you find out who your friends are. This is not something a lot of people want to talk about, but definitely something you’re grateful you can do when you need to.

I learned to be grateful for this small blessing from a great man who visited my home in my youth. We had been told a few months before that a man of some importance in my church named Robert Harbertson was going to come and stay with us for the weekend. My father went to pick him up at the airport and we all waited in our Sunday best for them to return.

We knew that he was important not only from his reputation, but from the fact that since the day we learned he was going to be in our home my mom began the etiquette lessons. All of a sudden we were eating our SpaghettiOs with three forks, a couple spoons and a cloth napkin.

Finally they arrived. As they got out of the car and walked up the steps to our front door every member of my family wondered what words of wisdom this great man would have to share with us. Robert Harbertson came in our home, looked at me, brandished his signature smile, and walked straight over to where I was sitting.

I couldn’t wait. I wondered what spiritual nugget or life lesson he would have to impart to me. He stood in front of me, looked me in the eye and said, “Jason, I want to see you pick your nose.”

Of all of the wisdom that I thought that he might impart, of all of the words that I would have guessed he might have used, asking me to pick my nose never entered my mind.   But, my parents had taught me to respect my elders and to do as they asked. So I attempted to pick my nose.

I will tell you—there is only one thing more embarrassing than picking your nose in front of someone you have a high regard for, and it is being unable to pick your nose in front of someone you have a high regard for.

He knew about my recent spinal cord injury and that at the time picking my nose would be a struggle for my weakened arms. He looked at me, smiled again and told me that the next time he saw me he wanted me to be able to pick my nose.

Not wanting to disappoint him I spent the following weeks and months working to pick my nose. This is something you do alone. This is not a tag team event, not something you want to get lot of people involved in. But nearly every day I worked to pick my nose. I would sit in my room by myself working to get my hand to my face to accomplish this goal. I wanted to make sure the next time he saw me that I had done what he asked.

Almost six months later, in Salt Lake City, I saw Robert Harbertson again.  The minute he saw me, he walked over to me, looked me in the eye, smiled that same smile, and said, “Jason, I want to see it.”  I will tell you this;  never before, and never again has a nose been picked with the vigor and excitement that was that day. I mean I really  picked my nose. I wanted to make sure that there was no question that I had completed my assignment as asked.

He laughed, and as he did I realized that he didn’t really care whether I could pick my nose, but he did care that I was working to improve the strength in my arms. Even still, every time I think of this experience with my friend Robert Harbertson I think about how grateful I am to pick my nose. I think about all the other “little things” that are a of my everyday life that I so easily forget to count as blessings.

Counting our blessings brings with it an amazing power. Gratitude for one blessing allows you to be grateful for others. Once I learned to be grateful that I could pick my nose my eyes were opened. and I was grateful that I could wash my face, brush my teeth, and feed myself.

Bringing this kind of gratitude into your life will chase away depression. For, there’s not enough room in the human heart for depression and gratitude at the same time. They are oil and water. They cannot exist in the same place at the same time. In fact, the one repels the other.

The wonderful thing about Thanksgiving is that it gives us each and opportunity to count our blessings–to chase the Depression from our lives. During this Thanksgiving I issue a each of you a challenge. Pull out a piece of paper (Kolette has a great one ready to download), number it as far as you like (at least to 10) and fill it with things you have to be grateful for. Then, take the time to share one of those things as a comment on this blog.

If we really get behind this idea, we will marvel at the things we find on our own lists, and have the ability to grow those lists as we see the comments others leave. If you read this post during this season, just take one moment and make note here of something you’re grateful for. It doesn’t have to be long and drawn out. It can be simply one word. But, if we will all do it then we will all be better for it. I’ll leave the first one, the fact that I can pick my nose.

The more comments that are left, the more thankful we will all be. If you don’t usually comment, do so–just this time. Encourage your spouse to leave a comment, ask your children to do so as well. Forward the post to a friend and invite them to put down what they are grateful for. Let’s grow this comment list as a Thanksgiving gift to ourselves.

For, I have learned that by writing down the things I am grateful for, I have a better chance of keeping the depression out, and the gratitude in.

Jh-


A Grateful Heart + Winner

November 25, 2008

First, congrats and an autographed DVD to Sue for her winning inspirational thought.  I love her spirit about the “change” cancer has brought to her life.

Six years since my diagnosis of Breast Cancer. It was a hard time for my husband, my boys and my extended family and of course for me.
I consider every day a gift and I don’t like to waste even a minute on hard feelings, mean people (I’m in retail, LOL) or anger. I just don’t have the time!
Cancer did change me but it is all good!

Now Today’s Post:

My Hands

My Hands

With Thanksgiving on it’s way, I wanted this weeks posts to center on gratitude.  I’ll post today and Wednesday and then be off for the weekend.

During my hospital stays, I have never had any real depression.  The closest I ever came was in the middle of the three-month stay after breaking my neck.

When I was in the ICU, I was so ill and so focused on staying alive there wasn’t much time left to think too far into the future.  As I continued to get better I began to wonder what life after the hospital would be like.
Moving from ICU to the Rehabilitation wing brought the thought of “after” permanently to the fore of my mind.  That’s their job there—to get you thinking about living versus just staying alive. It was there I began to understand what it meant to be unable to move my hands.

In rehab, I was working every day to get the most out of the few parts of my body that still worked, trying to sit upright on the mats, increasing my strength with the weights and working to push my chair.

At night in my room, I would watch my hands. I would see them move in my mind, concentrating until it hurt, hoping for them to work; needing them to work. But they didn’t.  Not a single movement.
One night lying in my bed, I struck a deal with God.  I told him that I would live the rest of my life happy without the use of my legs if He’d just give me back my hands. “Keep my legs;” my soul would scream,” Just let me have my hands.”

It didn’t seem like too much to ask.  Most kids at fifteen were worried about what they would wear the next day to school.  I couldn’t feed myself, clothe myself, or get myself into or out of bed.
Day and night I would pray, “Please God, heal my hands, make them move, make them work,” and every time—the same result—nothing.

I knew that having my hands would open up a whole new world for me. I knew it meant that I could push my own chair, put myself in and out of bed, pick something up off the floor, wash my face, brush my teeth, comb my hair—things that would make my life easier a hundred-fold.

I knew that if God were ever to accept my deal, He would have to see me working hard every day. So, I had decided that in daily therapy I would give everything I had. Hour upon hour I exercised— stretching and pulling, doing everything in my power to strengthen the remaining muscles.
The work was tedious and the progress slow, but the tiny daily victories coupled with my hope made it all worth it—until Daniel came.

Dan had been in an accident similar to mine, but had escaped with the total use of his arms and hands and partial use of his legs. Every day the therapist would offer to work with Dan. “Today, let’s concentrate on your upper body.  Today, let’s strengthen your arms and hands.” the therapist would plead, only to hear Dan’s all too familiar response. “No,” he would reply, “Today I want to watch my legs, maybe today they’ll move—maybe today they’ll work.

Frustrated to no end, I thought, “Don’t you see what you have?  Don’t you understand that you have access to blessings and opportunities that I can only dream of, that I can only pray for?  Yet ,you’re so wrapped up in what you don’t have, you can’t even see what you do have.”

Ready to quit I headed back to my room.  On my way there I stopped in the room of a friend, Rich Hullinger.
Rich was also a quadriplegic.  As I spoke to him that day, I noticed that he wore leather braces on his wrists. I had worn similar braces at the beginning of my hospital stay, but as my wrists had become stronger, I was able to function without them.

It seemed odd to me that Rich, who had been in hospital longer than I, would still be wearing them.  Our injuries were similar. We were both quadriplegics at about the same level. But, he had been in the hospital longer than I, and so I began to wonder why would he need the leather braces on his wrists?

Curious, I asked Rich about them. I told him that because of the time that he had been in the hospital, he could remove the braces from his wrists.

It was then Rich had his beautiful young wife come and remove the braces.  I watched his wrists fall.  He explained to me that the break in his neck was one pinhead higher than mine.  He told me that because it was, he was unable to move his wrists up and down or even hold them against the power of gravity.
I returned to my room so ashamed. I had found in myself, all the things I hated in Dan.

That night lying in bed I watched my hands, but this time for a different purpose. Instead of waiting for them to move or work, I watched as my wrists moved up and down.

Over and over I moved my wrists up and down, all the while thinking of lessons Rich had taught me.  I began to think of how blessed I was to be able to move my wrists up and down.  I wondered how many people were praying that night for that one singular blessing.  I wondered what else I had access to that others could only dream about.  Each time I moved my wrists up and down I would think of a blessing that was mine.
I thought about the family who loved and cared about me.  I thought about the friends who cared little whether I was sitting or standing and cared only that I was their friend.  I thought about the fact that I had never wanted for food, clothing, or a place to stay.  I thought about how I had never had to find shelter from the rain. I realized that I lived in a country where I was free to worship as I pleased; where I could get the best medical care.

As I moved my hand up and down I became thankful in my heart for things that I had otherwise forgotten.
I had spent the bulk of my time concentrating on what I did not have when I should have been focusing on what I did. By wishing for different circumstances, I had become totally oblivious to my life’s many blessings.  This oblivion caused my outlook on life to become tarnished.  It affected the way I dealt with others and my zeal for life.  It affected the way I felt about myself. 

With this new realization, I began to feel more blessed.   As I felt more blessed, I became more thankful. As I became more thankful, I developed a sense of worth which brought with it new vigor for life.

Rich’s lesson to us is to take a moment each day to look around our lives and realize our blessings.  There are blessings all around.  Each of us needs only to take a moment and see how blessed we are, no matter how dark the night or difficult the day, no matter what adversity stands in our way. If we will open our eyes and look, we will see that we have blessings that others only think about; blessings that others can only dream of–that we have blessings others can only pray for.

Jh-


Celebrate Life

November 21, 2008
November 1997

November 1997

At this very moment 11 years ago I was in the intensive care unit at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center fighting for my life. On November 21, 1997 at 10:45 in the morning I was traveling down the interstate thinking of the appointment I had at 11:00 and listening to local sports radio. It was a regular drive on a regular day.

Just then I heard what sounded like a shotgun going off in my left ear. It was my front left tire exploding. My handicap accessible van traveled across the three lanes of traffic heading southbound, went through the median, and into the oncoming traffic. The next thing I knew I was waking up to the voice of an EMT. I was obviously dazed and confused as to why I was looking up at the clear blue sky.

As I looked around I saw my van’s radio antenna. I remember thinking to myself that that was odd being that my antenna was on the passenger side of the car. There I was lying half in and half out of the passenger side of my van. Scared, frightened, and afraid that further neurological damage had been done I came in and out of consciousness while the emergency workers used the “Jaws of Life” to get me on a gurney and into the ambulance.

I was rushed to the ER where Kolette met me. I’ll never forget watching her enter the room unsure of what her response to this possibly fatal injury would be. It was then when I experienced one of the sweetest moments of my life. When Kolette first saw me her face turned white and she looked as though her knees were going to buckle. Then, in vintage Kolette style-she stood up straight and gained her bearings. She walked over to me and put her arms around me as best she could while whispering in my ear, “We’re going to be okay.” It is difficult for me to express in words what that quiet vote of confidence from the mouth of the woman I loved with all my heart meant to me.

After things were stabilized in the emergency room I was rushed off to seven hours of surgery. The weeks that followed were harrowing at best. On one of the very first days the doctors pulled my family aside and told them that if they wanted to say goodbye to me they’d better do it immediately. As my family tried to understand what my odds were really were, the doctors told them I wouldn’t live through the night.

Luckily, doctors aren’t always as smart as they think they are. I made it through that night, and through the nights that followed. My situation was serious enough however, that I was hospitalized for a full 13 months.

When I broke my neck in a diving accident at 15, I was in the hospital for three months. At that time I was convinced I could never do another day in the hospital. Thirteen months seemed an eternity.  But, the damage was that serious and extensive.

I will never forget 12 months later, November 21, 1998. I was still in the hospital and all I could think about on that day was how much my life had changed the year before. It reminded me of July 13, 1986, one year after my diving accident. As that day approached I had to make a decision. I had to decide if I would spend that day wallowing in self-pity, thinking of all the bad that happened, or if I would concentrate on the improvement I had made over the previous 12 months. I had to decide if I would put my energy and time into thinking about how I had become a quadriplegic, or if I would concentrate on the fact that I was still alive.

I chose to celebrate. On July 13, 1987 one year after my diving accident I invited all of my friends over my house and we had a party. We celebrated my “anniversary.” We celebrated life.

Following suit, on the first “anniversary” of my car accident I did the same–I celebrated. Kolette and I had some friends up to my hospital room and we had a party, being joyful about the life I still had to lead, about the gift simple existence was.

In every year that has followed, July 13 at November 21 are days that I celebrate. Every member of my family takes a moment to call me on the phone and congratulate me. Kolette and I always go out and do something special.

So today on my “anniversary” I invite you to join me. I invite you to take a moment and leave a comment telling me of something that is good in your life. I will give away one of my DVD’s to the winner (I’ll even autograph it). It will be your “anniversary” present to me.

Join me in focusing on all the pleasure you get and forgetting the pain.  Join me in realizing the blessing every minute in every day is. Join me and celebrate life.

Jh-

FYI: DVD GIVEAWAY CLOSES AT 9PM PST SUNDAY NOVEMBER 23RD


Stand Him Up and Let Him Go

November 20, 2008

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Nathan

Nathan

When I was a young man my parents were dedicated to having our family have one evening every week that we would spend together. We could play games, go to movies, enjoy the park, learn dinner etiquette, or do anything else as long as we were together. For us, that night was Monday night. You can imagine then the struggle my parents had trying to come up with some new activity every week that would entertain five different children from the ages of six to sixteen.

One of the ways they put together activities that they knew we would like was to ask us for our suggestions. Often my dad would put the question to us just after dinner on Sunday. He set it up perfectly. He would ask us for an idea for the following night’s family activity and if we didn’t provide one, we didn’t get dessert. Now I don’t care if you’re six or sixteen everyone wants dessert.

I will never forget one such night during the year following my diving accident. My dad informed us that he was going to go around the table and ask us what we wanted to do the following evening. That night he decided to go from oldest to youngest. Being the oldest, he turned to me and asked for my input. I gave it to him and when I did my mom placed my dessert in front of me. I was excited about this.

My father then turned to my sister is just younger than I, asked her the same question, and with her response she too received her dessert. The pattern continued until my dad reached my youngest brother Nathan. Nate was just six and so probably didn’t get listened to as much as he should have been in the first place. Add to that the fact that we were all seriously dedicated to our desserts, the only people really paying attention to Nathan’s response were my parents.

My dad asked Nate, “What should we do for tomorrow night’s family activity?” Nathan looked at him with a surety that only a six-year-old can possess and replied, “I want to teach Jason how to walk.”

You’d think that a statement like that would get my attention. But I was focused on y food so my mom’s dessert kept my full attention. My mom and dad however, were listening to Nathan’s every word. “How are we going to do that?” my dad questioned. Completely and totally sure of himself Nathan replied, “We’ll stand him up, and let him go.”

This got my attention. My dessert couldn’t hold my interest any longer. I began to imagine my head getting the kitchen linoleum floor. Concerned I said, “Well Nathan, what if I fall?” To which he replied, “We’ll stand you up and do it again.”

By this point, the entire family was listening to Nathan’s idea for Monday night’s family activity. We all chuckled at the thought eventually decided on one of the other ideas and went to bed.

That night as I laid in bed I began to think about what Nathan had said.  I had been in a wheelchair for less than a year. You might only imagine the pleas, wishes, and prayers that were offered up by my family in hopes that my condition would be reversed. There was nothing that any member of my family wanted more than for me to walk.

Nathan however was tired of hoping and ready to act. He didn’t want to just wish anymore. He wanted to do. He wanted to actively pursue this grand desire.

We must follow Nathan’s example and act. Nathan believed that I could walk again. But he also knew (the way only a six-year-old could) that believing wouldn’t be enough. He had to act on his beliefs

When there are things that we want in our lives we have to do more than just wish them to be, for no matter how hard we try to wish things into our lives, wishing alone won’t make them so. We have to marry action to our hope. When we put hope and action together we get real power. This power enables us to make broad sweeping changes in our lives for the better.

Besides, who’s to say that, if that night I had had the courage and willingness to act that Nathan did, he wouldn’t have been right.

Jh-


What You See Is What You Get

November 17, 2008
My friend Krishel and I at Prom

My friend Krishel and I at Prom

My sophomore year in high school the choir group I was in embarked on the annual “choir trip.” We were going to Salt Lake City, Utah. I grew up in Boise, Idaho and at the time Salt Lake was the big city and quite the adventure. Everyone in the choir was excited for the trip. I had not been home from the hospital for very long and therefore did not yet have my power chair or accessible van. So, in order for me to go I would need a little help.

I wouldn’t be able take the bus with the rest of the choir so first, I needed a ride. I couldn’t do my own care so I needed someone to go along and help me get up and ready for the day. Also, because that would be in my manual wheelchair I needed someone willing to push me from place to place.

My mom was dedicated to keeping me involved and therefore offered to take care of the ride and my care. There was a caveat however. She knew the kind of hotel our choir budget would put us in and said that if she was going to go she and I would be staying somewhere nicer.

With my first two requirements taken care of, I spoke to my friends in the group and they agreed not only to push me from place to place but to also take me to and from the hotel my mom and I would stay in to the hotel the choir would be in. With all my needs taken care of, I was good to go.

The trip finally arrived, and my mom and I followed the bus down to Salt Lake City. We checked into the Marriott as the choir checked into their motel. As soon as everyone was settled, my friends walked down a few blocks to take me to where they were staying. True to most trips of this kind we hung out eating pizza, talking and laughing. It became time for me to return to my hotel and my friend Krishel offered to take me back.

On our way we came to a crosswalk. We waited for the lights turn green and when it did Krishel began to push me across the street. About halfway across a man in a power wheelchair passed us going the opposite direction. Once he was out of earshot, she leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Can you imagine what that would be like to be in a wheelchair?” I chuckled and told her that I felt like I probably could. We both had a pretty good laugh about it as she pushed me the rest of the way to my hotel.

Later, laying in my bed in the Marriott I took a minute to consider what had just happened. There we were crossing the street, Krishel’s hands were on my chair pushing me across and still she forgot that I was in a wheelchair.

She saw me. She saw Jason. She didn’t see the wheelchair, or quadriplegic. She simply saw her friend.

My life has been richly blessed by people like Krishel and I have been better for it. They say “what you see is what you get” and I have found that to be true. My days have been filled with people who saw me and not my chair and because of those people and their view that’s exactly what they’ve gotten; me and not my chair. I have little doubt that I have reached higher goals, achieved more, become more and overcome obstacles I otherwise would not have because of what others have seen in me.

Think about that the next time you interact with someone the little different than yourself, a little different than the norm. Much of what what you get from them will come from what you see in them. A little vision pointed in the right direction will allow you to see the incredible in others, while helping them accomplish it themselves.

Jh-


The Shirt Off Your Back

November 14, 2008
Tim Holtz at Creative Escape

Tim Holtz at Creative Escape

I recently had the honor and privilege of presenting at a program called Creative Escape. It’s a weekend program put on by the good people at Bazzill Basics and Heidi Swapp, filled with nearly 700 excited, screaming scrapbookers.

It was a wonderful weekend and a fantastic group. I loved being there with Kolette (who also was a presenter) and interacting with these women who love to give so much of themselves.

The night I was to give my talk opened with dinner. I speak at a lot of these kinds of functions and the food is usually good. But here, the people at the Wild Horse Sheraton really outdid themselves. The food was fantastic.

After dinner they were going to do a few giveaways, draw a raffle winner, and then I would be on.  Everyone was excited knowing that money raised was going to the American Cancer Society. Throughout the weekend there had been amazing stories told of surviving cancer.  Then, before the festivities began, an addition was made to the program.

Also presenting that weekend was a man named Tim Holtz. Tim is an incredibly talented designer who comes up with fantastic ideas from things you and I would disregard. He has an eye to see art in the everyday. He is extremely popular in the scrapbooking world, and someone thought that auctioning off this very popular man’s shirt to a group of women might garner some attention.

Tim agreed, and just before I went on they brought Tim up to the stage. The bidding began. Everyone thought it was pretty funny and that it might raise a few hundred dollars.

The bidding started somewhere around a hundred dollars. It quickly grew to two hundred, then five hundred and eventually one thousand dollars. It was amazing-One thousand dollars for a man’s shirt.

But the bidding didn’t stop there. Everyone in the ballroom was amazed as the bidding continued. Up and up the dollar amounts went, and with every hand that one up signifying a new bid, Tim’s jaw dropped a little more.

Then out of the back of the room a woman stood up and called out, “Six thousand dollars!” Six thousand dollars. Everyone was in shock. How could it be that such a little thing could bring such a great result.

First, there was someone willing to give. Tim was literally willing to donate the shirt off his back. Without this kind of generosity the amazing result would have never come to be.

Second, there was a wonderful cause. I believe everyone there in some form or another had a personal connection with cancer. There were a number of cancer survivors there at the event and because of that people were willing to open their checkbooks.

Third, there are people at the event willing to be participators. People willing to get involved and do something. People who had decided they would do more than just spectate, they would participate.

Every time I think about this amazing experience I think of those three pieces that put together an incredible puzzle. I think about how I can better give. I think about those “shirts off my back” that I am reluctant to give because it seems like a sacrifice that won’t bring any real result.

I think about how I can better promote the causes I come across. A cause can be anything from a neighbor’s need for a helping hand to fighting cancer. This experience always reminds me that good causes bring about good results.

Then, I think about getting involved in my life. I think about the opportunities where I can participate and I become less likely to let them pass. I may not have six thousand dollars, but I have time and talent and energy that can make just as great a difference. How grateful I am for the example of that woman who that night decided not to be a spectator.

Next time you think you have nothing to give, remember good causes, remember to participate and remember the shirt off your back.

Jh-


Declare Your Independence From The Weather

November 13, 2008
If a tree falls on your cottage it definetly makes a sound

If a tree falls on your cottage it definetly makes a sound

I’ll never forget the time Kolette and I spent living in New Canaan, Connecticut. But there are seven special days that stand out above the rest. Kolette and I were living in a little cottage. It had one bedroom, one bath, a living room, a kitchen, and a loft. The bedroom at one time had been some sort of a stall to house animals, and the rest had been built on from there. The older part of the cottage didn’t have any insulation, and so, like the pioneers, we had to hang quilts on the walls to keep the cold air out. It was old and it was tiny and we loved it.

The place just oozed personality. I called it, “The Love Shack” (Kolette thought the title was a bit optimistic). One night, amidst a major storm the cottage was struck by lightning. This incredible surge of energy fried the computer, the expensive laser jet printer, the television, and worst of all my PlayStation. The week before we had spoken about the importance of getting renters insurance, and it was one of those things we’re going to do “tomorrow.” We weren’t making much money and without any coverage we were going to have to pay to replace everything on our own.  I had heard that people were able to live without television and now I was going to find out for myself.

Just a few days later, the youth group from my church was making a trip to Boston. I had some responsibilities with reference to that group, and so I was making the trip as well. But, before I could go I had to get a few things finished. In the middle of running around town checking tasks off my list my car died. Now, it didn’t just die anywhere, it died in the middle of the busiest intersection in town at the busiest time of day. There I sat inside my dead car getting honked at and called names I hadn’t heard since high school.

Finally, a tow truck arrived and hauled my van to local auto shop. The owner of the shop was a family friend and when I explained that I was trying to accompany this youth group to Boston, they put my van at the top of the list. For two straight hours they worked on my van and at the end of those hours the result was the same. The van was dead. With the youth group well on their way to Boston, the shop owner and I agreed that there was nothing left to do. They would start back up on the car on Monday and I would head home.

Heading home brought it’s own set of challenges. Because of my chair I couldn’t exactly hop in the courtesy vehicle, so I drove the two miles home in my wheelchair. By the time it was dark, I pulled up to the front door of the cottage

I spent Saturday puttering around my TV-less cottage hoping that fixing the van wouldn’t take too long or add too much to the already mounting bills. On Saturday night, Kolette and I discussed whether or not I should attempt going to church.

If I were to go to church it would mean getting up pretty early in the morning. Services began at nine, and for me to make the journey from our cottage to the chapel would take an hour or so at best. We figured that the way the past few days were going we could use all the blessings we could get. So, we decided church was in. I got up early that morning, dressed for church, and headed out on my own.  The journey was long enough that it was most likely going to take all the juice my batteries could carry.  Therefore, Kolette would follow later bringing the battery charger so I could charge up during services which would give me enough power to get home.

On my way to church one of the streets I took was fairly steep and had a sharp curve. As I began down the road for some reason the power in my chair gave out for just a second.  This break in the power forced my body hard against the back of the chair and then through my torso forward towards my legs. Being a quadriplegic I don’t have control over my trunk, and so when I fall I can’t just use the muscles in my midsection to sit back up.

As I lunged forward, I reached to grab something, anything to keep me from falling out of my chair. I grabbed the joystick. Unfortunately, when I did the power surge was over. With my chest laying on my lap and my hand pushing the joystick forward I began to fly down the road. Both the way that I was laying, and the lack of movement in my arms made it impossible for me to take my hand off of the joystick.

Faster and faster I flew down the street. I tilted my neck just enough to get an idea of where I was heading. To my dismay I saw that I was coming up on the sharp curve in the middle of the road. I had driven up that road in my car many times and knew how difficult it was to see cars coming the other way, let alone a runaway wheelchair. I could  see the whole thing in my mind. Some unsuspecting motorist would make the turn without seeing me and wheelchair parts and people parts would fly in every direction.

Just then, my foot fell off the foot rest. My foot skimmed along the road for a second until my front left tire ran it over. This provided enough force to throw my body from my chair onto the street. I remember knowing that hitting the street was inevitable, but I could choose whether my head or my shoulder took the brunt of the damage. In that split second I chose shoulder.

Laying in the middle of the road I began to yell for help. 8:00 AM is not a real busy time on Sunday morning. Luckily a woman from one of the neighboring houses heard my call. She carefully, pensively, walked up to where I was lying. She asked me if I needed any help. There are few times in a person’s life when they are absolutely positively sure about a thing. This was one of those times. I told her I did need help. She called Kolette who in turn called the ambulance. They took my broken shoulder and I to the emergency room.

The doctor took x-rays, gave me something for the pain, and told me to come back in a week and get my shoulder looked at again. Not quite sure how I was going to get back to the hospital we followed the doctor’s orders and went back to the cottage.

For the next three days all I could do was lay in my bed in pain. I could barely roll from side to side. On my third day home the clouds had turned dark and the wind began to blow. It was in the middle of this little storm that lying in bed I heard one of the loudest crashes of my life. Looking around trying to find what could cause such a noise, I noticed that every window in the cottage was covered with leaves. It looked like “The Love Shack” had been transported to the middle of the Amazon jungle.

Kolette rushed down to my room to see if I was alright. After confirming that I was no worse for wear, she told me that the nearly hundred foot tree that grew next to our cottage had fallen. The roots of the tree had become weak trying to grow too close to a nearby creek causing the tree to fall onto the cottage directly on top of where I laid in bed. I was so grateful that the beams making up our roof had actually held.

Within seven days we had some of the worst luck of our lives. A lightning strike  destroyed every valuable piece of electronics that we owned, my car died, I broke my shoulder, and a tree nearly crushed our cottage.

These things didn’t happen because we were bad. These things didn’t happen because we deserved them. They just happened. Bad things happen to good people. It’s just a fact of life. When they do we can start running around asking, “why me?”

Isn’t it interesting how we never ask, “why me?” when good things happen. We never wonder why we got that promotion, why we have good kids, or why we were blessed with good health.  What then gives us the right to start asking these questions when things don’t go our way.

We need to “Declare our independence from the weather.” We need to make a conscious decision to have a good attitude regardless of our circumstance. We need to live the way we want independent of the good or bad that comes into our lives. We need to be happy in the sun and in the rain, find joy whether it’s beautiful or bleak. We need to stop letting the forecast dictate our mood.  We need to smile and enjoy the adventure.

Jh-


Four Eyes

November 11, 2008

Glasses

I will never forget that one particular day somewhere in the middle of my fourth grade year that I was sure was going to be the worst day of my life–The day I stood in front of my elementary school waiting for my mom to pick me up and take me to get my first pair of glasses.

I understood that my parents and the doctor felt like I needed glasses and appreciated the fact that it was getting a little more difficult to see the blackboard. But, I didn’t feel that they understood this was social suicide. I mean it wasn’t as bad as getting braces, but in my mind’s eye I could already see the kids calling me names like “four eyes,” “poindexter,” and “nerd.” I had seen it happen to others and I knew that it was my turn. It wasn’t a matter of chance, it was simply a guaranteed eventuality.

Under duress, I went to the doctor.  All smiley and nice, without a care in the world he checked to make sure the prescription was right and that the frames fit.  Unfortunately they did and he invited me to hop out of his chair. I remember thinking that I liked his chair, it was safe in his chair, and I could comfortably live out the rest of my days in his chair. But my mom persisted, paid the receptionist and we left. As we opened the door to head back to the car, what I found was nothing short of amazing.

There were leaves on the trees. I had missed leaves on the trees. On my way in to the doctors office I had looked at those same trees and would have sworn they were leafless. But now I saw that I had been wrong. Driving back to the elementary school I was shocked to see how many other things were out there that I had missed.

I had forgotten that you could read a street sign before you were right next to it and that you could recognize someone before they were standing right in front of you.  I had forgotten how vibrant colors were and that the teachers writing wasn’t blurry for everyone behind the first row. I had forgotten how easy it was to hit a baseball and how easy it was to avoid a dodgeball. My eyesight had become so bad, so slowly, that I had forgotten all the wonderful important things there were to see in the world.

If we aren’t careful the same thing happens to us. Slowly, and without even noticing, important things in our lives can begin to blur. Then, before we know it, we forget to notice the needs of the people around us. We forget to perceive the unique and important qualities in people that surround us. We forget to see their vibrant personalities. We forget to see how amazing and gifted our loved ones are. And, if not careful, we can even forget to see our own talents and abilities.

Let’s remember then that four eyes are better than two.  That sometimes it’s helpful to take a break, make sure our prescription is right, and that our frames fit so we don’t miss the leaves on the trees, the signs in our lives and the people along the way.

Jh-


To Protect and Serve

November 8, 2008

protect-and-serve

Driving around town the other day trying to get some things done I passed a police officer. For some reason I took special notice of the words that were placed on each door as well as the rear bumper. They read, “To protect and serve.” I thought about all the things that the men and women of the police force do to make sure their slogan “to protect and serve” is kept.

These thoughts turned from the officers to my parents. As they did, I  marveled at the sacrifices they have made to get me to where I am today.

I remembered being 15 lying in a hospital just hours from learning that my medical diagnosis was quadriplegia, and as far as the doctors were concerned I would never walk again. On that day, like so many after it, I looked into my parents eyes and knew that if there was anything they could do to better “protect and serve” me I need only ask for it. I knew in a way most 15-year-old boys never get to know that my mom and dad would do anything in their power to keep me safe and help me to grow.

Later, as I worked in a wheelchair to find my way in a world of stairs, I also learned that often in order to truly serve, they had to let me fall. That the greatest protection they could offer was the preparation that came from no protection at all. That the finest service they could give was teaching me to serve myself.

In addition, I watched as they worked hard not only “to protect and serve” my siblings and I, but our “neighbors” as well. Just like the officers who carry that credo with them, my parents taught us that we too have a responsibility “to protect and serve” those around us. From a young age I was instructed that if I saw suffering I had a duty to help to curb it. I learned that if any of us are ever to be truly protected or served we must police each other.

Thinking of my parents, my thoughts turned to this little boy waiting to come to my home. Like the police officer, all I want to do is “to protect and serve” him,

As I think about the life he has a waiting him, the adventures that will be his, and the world that he is being born into my first nature is to protect him and keep him safe. It seems as natural and instinct as “fight or flight.” He’s not even here, and I already consider often the things that I can do to keep him out of harm’s way.

My desire to serve him is just as strong. From that day when he was all of five weeks old and I heard his heartbeat, I knew that I would do anything I could to help him. I think of him often in my dreams and as I do I try to imagine ways that I might help him reach his ultimate potential. We have not even met and yet all that I have is his. If there is anything I own in this world that might help him achieve more, do more, or become more I will gladly give it to him. My soul aches to serve him.

I hope that I am strong enough to follow the examples of my parents. I hope that I serve him well enough that I teach him I cannot protect him from everything even if I wanted to. I hope that he grows up knowing that he has a responsibility to those around him. I hope he grows up safe and secure. Safe in the knowledge that his dad loves him and secure enough in who he is that he can rise each time he falls.

What I do know is this, he is mine and I am his. I know I will do my very best “to protect and serve” him in a way that prepares him for the struggles that lie ahead of him, and will work to help him know that understanding love means loving his neighbor as himself.

Jh-

Coleman Jason Hall when he was just 5 cells old.  (He's the cute one)

Coleman Jason Hall when he was just five cells old. (He's the cute one)


Just Listen

November 6, 2008
Mom

Mom

As you may have already guessed being a 16 year old and getting access and permission to use a power wheelchair opened up all sorts of interesting scenarios. For example, there was the time my brothers and I came across an old water ski rope in the garage. We thought about the rope, thought about the manual wheelchair that I used as a backup, and put two and two together. Minutes later I was sitting in my power chair in the middle of our street with one end of the ski rope tied to the back of my chair, and the other end firmly grasped by my brother Brandon. He was sitting in the manual chair about 10-15 yards behind me. He said, “Hit it!” and we were off.  I floored my power chair as he “skied” behind me. You can imagine the look on my mother’s face as she pulled into her subdivision with me driving as fast as I could down the street and my brother weaving back and forth from sidewalk to sidewalk.

It was after some such shenanigan that my mother took me aside and reminded me that my $15,000 power chair was not a toy and should not be treated as such. She warned me of the dangers that can come from “messing around” with such an expensive piece of equipment. She continued, and reinforced the fact that the chair was my responsibility and asked me if I understood. I told her I did and that I would be more careful in the future.

When I was in high school I was always very involved in student government. At my school, that meant that fourth period was spent in leadership class. This class wasn’t so much a place to learn about leadership as much as it was time for us to complete the tasks that needed to be accomplished in our respective offices. It was time to schedule DJs for dances, make sure service projects were planned, prepare for upcoming pep rallies and so forth.

However, if all of your assignments were fulfilled, then it was time that could be filled in any way we could imagine. We would simply check-in with the teacher over student government, give him our report, and we were off.

On one such day during my junior year, some of the senior officers and I began to talk about how “funny” a Funny Car was.  For those of you out of the know, the funny car is one of those racecars that has big wheels in the back and small wheels in the front. When it takes off it does so with so much horsepower but the front wheels fly off the asphalt and into the air. They stay like that for a few seconds as the car races down the track when they eventually come back down to the ground.

During this discussion, we noticed that my wheelchair also had big wheels in the back and small wheels in the front. We began to wonder. What would happen if we lined up in the hallway and used every bit of horsepower the chair could muster while someone simultaneously pulled back as hard as they could on the back of my chair?

The first try was a success. I threw the joystick forward it as hard and fast as I could, my friend pulled back as hard and fast as he could and for a few feet I rode a “wheelie” down the hall. It was beautiful. Just like the Funny Cars we’d spoken about.

We knew that if we could go a few feet on our first try a little more power and a little more pull could take us farther. Again and again we tried. Each time going a little farther than the time before. The hour was about over and lunchtime was about to arrive. We felt like we had one more shot. We decided to go all the way to the end of the hall and see if I could ride the back wheels the entire length of the hallway. Such a length could not be achieved using our normal configuration. We figured that the only way to keep the front wheels up long enough was to double the weight on the back of my chair.

At the very end of the hallway we prepared for our run. Two of my friends were on the back of the chair ready to pull with my hand poised on the joystick ready to give her all that she had. “One, two, three, go!” we exclaimed. The chair flew forward as my friends pulled back and just as the front wheels began to leave the ground we heard a deafening snap.

All that force going in opposite directions had caused the back of my wheelchair to break off completely. The chair continued to move forward for a few feet and as it did my back hit the ground and I slid completely out of the chair. Laying on the ground with a bump on my head I realized that my backpack had split open and I was surrounded with my books, notepads, and papers.

Just then the bell went off for lunch. Hundreds of kids began to fill the halls stepping on, over, and around me as best they could. My friends were shocked to say the least. After a half emptied, they helped to put me back in my backless wheelchair, and kept me sitting straight up as we slowly move down the hall trying to come up with a solution. Eventually we made our way to the welding teachers workspace where he helped us weld together the back of my chair as best he could. The job was good enough to get me home, but not good enough to fool my mother, or good enough to make it so the chair didn’t have to be repaired.

As I lay on the floor, my mom’s words of caution rang in my ears. Through the rest of the day and into the night I thought about how much easier my day would have been if I had just listened. Just listening would have saved me a lot of grief, a lot of pain, and a lot of money.

Every day everyone gets little pieces of counsel. Sometimes they come from a loved one, sometimes from a mentor, sometimes from a peer, and sometimes from our own conscience. Whether they come as words of advice or impressions to our heart, our lives end up so much easier and better if we would just listen.

So the next time you get a word of warning or impression to change, just listen and you’ll keep things intact instead of broken in the middle of the hall getting stepped on by every passerby.

Jh-


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