Notable Quotables

March 16, 2010

For those of you who know me, have heard me, or have read my blogs, you know how I feel about positive affirmation.  When a person is working on having a positive mindset, few things help them get there like a good positive reminders, and when it comes to positive reminders, few work as well as a good positive quotes.

With this in mind, Kolette helped me design 8 new cards that have positive quote on them for 8 great subjects.  We rolled them out at a recent presentation, and they went over like gangbusters.

Here’s a look a the cards.  If you think they might help you, go on over to the store (or click here) and pick up a pack.  You can use them as a motivator by placing them in places where you’ll see them, frame ones you like, or frame one and change it every month.  They even make great gifts.

The packs go for $5.00 a piece, plus $1.50 S&H.  I think you’ll agree that the quotes are moving, and Ko’s design is flawless.  I hope you enjoy them.

Jh-

Quotes:

Positive Attitude: The greatest weapon in the fight to be happy is a Positive Mental Attitude.

Drive: Any dream can be your destination; Just pick a direction and go.

Gratitude: There’s not enough room in the human heart for depression and gratitude at the same time.

Creativity: When you take the best of what you have and combine it with all that you can dream – That’s creativity.

Laughter: Few problems in the world can’t be cured by a moment of laughter.

Service: The kindest gift ever given of man, was a kind word and an open hand.

Cooperation: The more you wonder at the good in others, the less you wonder about the good in yourself.

Persistence: Be better today than you were yesterday, and better tomorrow than you were today.


Part of a Team

February 25, 2010

Team Hall

There are all kinds of teams.  Some are organized like football and basketball teams, church groups, civic groups, book clubs or sewing circles.  Others are a little more amorphous like neighborhoods, fans of a similar person, team or group, or those who share a similar talent/interest.  Regardless of what brings teams together, there is every kind of team everywhere you look

Whether you are a member of the Dallas Cowboys, attend the Methodist church on the corner, are on the PTA, live in Crofters Cove, love Frank Sinatra, are a Scrapbooker (or all of the above) you are a part of a team—and that’s good.

We all want to belong.  We all want to be a part of something, and that’s why we gravitate together.  It’s why we try out, volunteer, or set aside our precious time for teams.  We crave that commonality and community.  No matter how busy we are, we often find ourselves willing to throw our hat in one more ring in order to gain one more connection.

As members of these different groups we need to remember that desired community.  It will help us remember to be continually inclusive, instead of answering the primal instinct to exclude.  Regardless of how many groups knock at your door, it’s important to remember everyone isn’t quite so busy.

There are many people who are looking for anyway to be a part of anything—so much so that sometimes they’ll do whatever it takes to be “in.”  Even when people are included, when times get difficult, they want more—they need more.

When I broke my neck, I needed any inclusion I could get.  Even though I was fairly well liked, and a part of numerous groups, my new situation had me longing for more contact—more teammates.

Luckier than most, I had people who were willing to not only let me in, but actually make the effort to “recruit” me.

Growing up, one of the teams I wanted to be a part of was the BYU football team.  I spent nights dreaming of me in the locker room or crossing campus proudly wearing my letterman jacket.

Obviously, my new disability made both seem impossible.

One day, lying in the hospital, there was a knock at the door.  As it opened, I nearly went into cardiac arrest.  There, in the hallway, was Steve Lindsley—quarterback at BYU.  He spent a half hour of his time with me and before he left gave me his jersey and an invitation to join him in the locker room.

BYU QB Steve Lindsley visiting me in the hospital

I wore the jersey every day, and a few months later, I was in the locker room with all my heroes.  I was no longer a 15 year old learning to deal with his disability.  In that room and with that jersey on, I was a part of the BYU Football Team—a Cougar.

The letterman jacket came later.  I wasn’t struggling to find my place, that 15 year old boy scared about his future was long gone.  However, that didn’t mean my desire to be a part, to be included was gone too.  Just like everyone, I still wanted connections.

The Dean of Students and her Associate Dean, Maren Mouritsen and Tammie Quick (two of the wisest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing), understood that.  Just before my graduation from “The Y”, they presented me with my letterman’s jacket in front of my peers.  They had overheard me talk about my dream once and being the proactively caring people that they are, called the Vice-President responsible for athletics and got the ball rolling.  As far as I know I am the only non- athlete to be a Letterman from BYU—a part of BYU’s letterman’s club.  It was one of the proudest days of my young life.

A letteman at "The Y"

Our challenge is to follow the example of these three good people, Steve, Maren and Tammie, and look for ways we can change the lives of others by making them our teammate.  Whether it’s people around us who are struggling like I was in the hospital, or just someone looking for another meaningful connection, like I was at the end of my tenure at BYU, it’s our duty as a member of  “Team Humanity” to let those around us know we want them on our side.

Make it your goal this week to target someone and invite them to be a part of one of your teams.  Ask them to a church luncheon, or a neighborhood party.  Take some time to talk with them about a shared interest, or give them a CD from some artists you both like.  If you give it some real thought, you’ll find something that lets someone know you have something in common—and more importantly, that you care.

Watch the difference it makes.  Watch their confidence soar as your friendship builds.  I’m willing to bet it will have a bigger impact than you ever imagined.  But, what will really amaze you is how good the effort will make you feel.  Gaining more teammates will shore up your confidence as well.  For, working to let others know that they belong, you’ll find yourself feeling more accepted and loved as well.

For, really, at the end of the day, we all want to be part of a team.

Jh-


Better Than You Found It

December 23, 2009

Part of my Scout Troop on a campout (I'm on the right in the red & blue striped shirt)

As a boy scout, camping trips were a monthly occurrence.  Whether in the dead of winter or the blazing heat of summer our leaders religiously found the sites and planned the weekend retreats.

Sometimes we were driven to the sites, sometimes we packed in; Sometimes we slept in a snow caves and other times we slept out under the stars, but no matter how different the activities were, there were always those things that seemed to be constants.

For example, no matter when or where, you could pretty much bank on anything the scouts cooked to test the most stalwart of constitutions, where the leaders had the uncanny ability to make things like tin foil dinners taste and look like fine dining. Every campout also came with a full on snipe hunt for those new to the troop, and a reminder about the importance of fire safety, followed by someone trying to start a fire with gasoline.

But, of all the guarantees, the one that held the most true was after the fun.

Once everybody had packed up, our scoutmaster would remind us to make sure that we’d cleaned up our area.  We would all take a few minutes to look over our own little piece of the site to make sure things had been cleaned up.

Then, just before we left, our scoutmaster would line up all the scouts at one end of the campsite.  We would hold hands, and then spread out to make sure we could effectively cover as much ground as possible. Once we were lined up and ready to go he would let us loose and have us slowly, and carefully cover the campground picking up any little shred of paper or loose piece of packaging we’d missed in our own separate clean-ups.

The whole time we walked across the site, he’d call out to us, “Boys, leave this place better than you found it.”

It never ceased to amaze me how improved the grounds were after we walked together hand in hand.

As I think of those days, now so long ago, I think the call still holds true.  Our assignment as brothers and sisters in this place is to do all we can to leave “this place” better than we found it.  Can there be any better compliment paid at the end of our lives than to have it said that we did our part in leaving things better.

If we ever want to have any real chance at doing so, I believe we must follow my scoutmaster’s instructions to the letter—Holding hands with our neighbors to make sure we can cover as much ground as possible, we must watch carefully and hear our own voice repeat, “Leave this place better than you found it.”

This Christmas lets each remember and renew our desire to do all we can to remove those things that can clutter and mess our lives and the lives of those around us.  Let’s work together to remove the suffering, and take away the grief.  Let’s take care to take away the suffering, and rid lives of strife. Then, and only then, will our world truly end up better than we found it.

Merry Christmas

Jh-


Be an Enabler + DVD Giveaway

April 17, 2009
There was a little bit of a snafu with the post so I’m extending the giveaway to Wednesday he night 9pm PST. If you list your Enabler before then, you’re in. Good luck!  Jh-
Two Great Enablers.  Florence & Elmer Hall

Two Great Enablers. Florence & Elmer Hall

We so often hear of people who are enablers. They encourage and allow others to continue their lives filled with bad habits. For example, if someone were living with an alcoholic and created an environment where alcohol was easily obtained, or easily accepted the excuses the alcoholic used to drink, that person would be designated an enabler; enabling the alcoholic to continue with their bad habit.

Over and over on the small and large screen and in print we see, hear, and read of enablers. We take note of these people working hard, or completely ignoring poor habits thereby perpetuating those habits or actions that hurt and damage lives.

Because of this new and popular way of utilizing the words enabler and enabling, they’ve taken on a negative connotation. But, it can be a powerful thing to enable. Putting our efforts toward enabling positive and moral actions and values can make a real difference in others lives for good.

The world today so badly needs enablers. It needs people enabling others to set goals and become better. The world needs people enabling positive mental attitudes, and promoting environments where serving others is more accepted and lauded. In these dark times there must be those willing to actively enable good works and moral strength in order to yield lives lived well.

As I look back at my life I know that I’m the person I am today because of the enablers who helped me along the way. In considering the enabling I’ve enjoyed in my life I remember the following people especially:

  • I think of my Grandma & Grandpa Hall who taught me to love others unconditionally and live a life filled with righteousness.
  • I think of my Grandma Ashby who taught me that there is no value in complaining.
  • I think of my parents, the ultimate enablers, who taught me to look for the good in every situation. They taught me the importance of being positive in the face of any adversity.
  • I think of Major Weaver, a scout leader, who taught me the importance of patriotism and love of country.
  • I think of Darren Haskins and Ben Hendry who allowed me to see how far a little kindness could go in a young boy’s life.
  • I think of Dave Checketts who gave me the opportunity to grow through the lives of great young men when most people wondered if I was ready to grow at all.
  • I think of Maren Mouritsen and Tammie Quick who taught me more about listening, leading and doing what’s right than most people ever have a chance to learn.
  • I think of Gary and Judy Coleman who taught me about acceptance because of the environment of acceptance they fostered in their home.
  • And, I think about Kolette whose pure love has allowed me to love more purely.

Although this list is far from complete, these enablers, along with countless others, have made a real, lasting difference in who I am today. I’m frightened to consider who I might have become had I not experienced the environments these people created and the motivation they provided.

We must enable. We must put people in situations where they can succeed. For, often that taste of success can push them forward and create in them a desire for more. We must show people that they can be better than they are, regardless of how good they are already. We must push people to do great things and become great people, and if we have pushed them a little we must push them even more.

In today’s world where people seem lost and character has become a word some can hardly define, positive enabling is the answer. We have to look for ways to further enable others to become the best they can be. Remember those who have enabled you, and take the opportunity to pay their work forward.

There are so many out there waiting to find out who they can become and what they can do. In many cases your enabling will be their answer.

Be an enabler.

Jh-

In order to remind us all of the power of enabling, I am doing a giveaway associated with the enablers. Leave a comment where you name someone who has enabled you to become the good person you are today. The winner gets an autographed copy of my DVD. The contest closes at 9 PM PST Monday, April 20, 2009.


Get Into The Groove

March 28, 2009
Harvest Hop

Karen Dahlstrom and I at Borah High School's Harvest Hop Dance (1987)

Before my diving accident caused me to be a quadriplegic, I loved to dance. From my 14th birthday to the day I broke my neck the social event of my life was the Saturday Night Dance, more commonly known as the SND.

The SND was a regional dance that was held every Saturday. There were few things I looked forward to during that time of my life like I looked forward to the SND. In fact, the greatest punishment my parents could excise in those years was to “ground” me from the dance.

I seem to remember many Saturdays when, late in the afternoon, my dad would ask me if I had completed my chores (in particular, if I had mowed the lawn) where my answer in the negative brought out the threat of missing the dance. Too many times, without enough hours to do the job right, I would run behind the lawnmower as it bounced up and down in front of me. Big, huge pieces of lawn were missed completely. But, by the time I asked my dad to check if the lawn had been completed, it was dark and I was free to go. I remember just as vividly the Sunday mornings that followed when my dad realized my work was shoddy and I was sternly invited to mow the entire lawn again on Monday. Although the repercussions were never fun, the payoff of the SND was always worth it.

One might imagine then the concern I had when I returned home from the hospital paralyzed from the chest down. I didn’t know if you could dance in a wheelchair. I had never seen it done. I didn’t even know if I could date in a wheelchair. So, fearful to try, I did my best to stay away from dating and dancing completely.

I returned to school from the hospital in October. In the beginning, I only had the strength and ability to attend a few classes. It wasn’t until well into that sophomore year that I was able to take anything even close to a full load. My absence from school made easier to stay absent from dancing and dating. I benefited from a kind of, “out of sight, out of mind” situation.

My junior year was different. First, I was attending school full-time. My health allowed me not only to be more present during the school day but that extra curricular activities as well. I started to become more involved in student government and was elected junior class president. I was a regular fixture at the athletic events.

This all made for a social calendar more full than I had ever hoped. But, it also made it difficult to stay away from the dating and dancing that scared me so.

I had been to a dance before and before I could even catch my breath and get comfortable as a wallflower, one of the chaperones took me out on the floor and began moving my manual wheelchair back and forth “dancing” for me. This might have been a good idea for some people who were in chairs and although I knew his heart was in the right place, I was mortified and felt more disabled; not less. Within literal minutes I found my ride and convince them to take me home. I wasn’t there long enough for it to count as attending a dance. I was barely there long enough for it to count as listening to a song.

If this experience did anything it made me more nervous and frightened about attending a full dance not to mention a “date dance” and taught me that unless I wanted someone to dance for me (embarrassing me to no end) I was going to have to figure out how to dance for myself. Try as I might I couldn’t figure out a way to resolve the problem with an answer that resulted in me dancing in a way that looked or felt comfortable at all.

My first real hurdle was Homecoming.

As a junior class officer I had some responsibility with reference to the activities that went on during the week, including the dance. This, coupled with my other involvement prompted a lot of questions about my plans for the Homecoming dance.

Somewhere around the middle of September my friends started asking, “Who are you taking to the dance?”

I had to be very careful about how I answered that question. My friends had decided that they were not going to treat me any different because I was in a wheelchair. They refused to accept excuses that had to do with my disability. In fact, if I was ever trying to get them to buy into an excuse bringing up my disability would only ever hurt my chances, not help them.

I knew that if I were I to tell them that I wasn’t going to the dance because I was unsure of how to date or dance in a wheelchair, not only would they never accept that excuse but, it would most likely prompt them to respond by showing up at my home the night of the dance, coming down to my room, lifting me out of bed in my pajamas, throwing me into the car and introducing me to my date; who would surely be the easiest girl they could find on short notice–Probably some lady standing just off the on-ramp near my house holding a sign saying, “Will work for food.”

As nervous and scared as I was to attempt any real dancing in a wheelchair, their potential response scared me even more. It was for this very reason that when they asked me who I was taking to dance I told them that unfortunately I was going to be out of town. This answer seemed to appease them, and the subject was dropped.

On the night of the Homecoming dance I took my power wheelchair and drove to Meridian from Boise. For those people who know the area this is not a long trip. In fact, the journey took about two and a half minutes… round trip… on my elbows. I could essentially spit to Meridian from my house. But, this way my excuse held up without necessitating a lie, for I was “technically” out of town.

The dance was on a Saturday night. At school, on the Monday that followed, everyone was talking about the dance. They were laughing and joking already nostalgic about the fun and good times they had. A few days later the photographer that took the pictures at the dance came to school to deliver the portraits. I remember sitting in the hall watching everyone carry around the black cardboard frames that carried the photos from the dance.

I wanted to be carrying one of those frames so bad I could hardly see straight. I didn’t even care if I was in the picture. I just wanted to be included. I didn’t want to be the only one without photographs and memories from the dance. Worse still my heart wanted to be dating and dancing, but my fear kept me both in check and at home.

The next “date” dance at my school was called the “Harvest Hop”–a kind of a Sadie Hawkins dance. Like most dances of its kind, it was a “girl ask guy” evening where tradition held that in addition to the traditional responsibilities of the dance the girl would also buy matching shirts. This way the couple would be what they called in the vernacular of the day “twinners.”

I was quite sure that I was safe. I hadn’t really done any dating since my accident or dancing in a wheelchair and figured that the girls at my school would see me simply not an option.

A few days later, as I pulled into my driveway on my way home from school, I noticed a big basket on my doorstep. I don’t remember exactly what was in the basket, but knowing the way teenage girls went about asking teenage boys to dances at my high school, I am sure that it was filled with balloons you had to pop, to find puzzle pieces that you put together, to make a map, that took you on a scavenger hunt, that required two days and a pup tent, which eventually led to a box of Cheerios, that had to be emptied out, in order to find the one specific Cheerio, that had been dyed green, and had the invitation to the dance inscribed around its side.

I went through the steps required to figure out what I was being asked to and who was doing the asking. When I figured out I was being asked to the “Harvest Hop” by a cute girl, my brain went into overdrive and I immediately told Karen that I would go to the dance.

Minutes after giving Karen my answer I heard a little voice in my head that screamed, “YOU DON”T KNOW HOW TO DANCE!” In an instant all of the fear that my excitement had skipped over came back in a flood that made Noah’s look like a puddle. I knew I had to do anything and everything I could to get out of this dance.

A few days later I found out that Karen had purchased short sleeve “twinner” shirts for us to wear to the dance. I went up to her and explained that since the dance was in November, short sleeve shirts would be too cold, and we should therefore not go to the dance.

I went into our discussion with what I felt like was a good, well thought out argument. However, like most arguments I have had with women in my life, we talked for a little while and as I left the conversation I realized that for reasons I can hardly explain, we were still going to the dance.

Every week we went through the same exercise. I came up with a good argument that seemed airtight and indestructible, we would talk for a while and at the end of the conversation were still going to the dance. Finally, the dance was only a few days away and I needed to find an out.

I found Karen in the hallway, stopped her and with all the power, and strength I could muster said, “Let’s just not go.” She returned my gaze with one that told me I had much to learn about power and strength and said, “Jason, shut up and go.” Not wanting any part of anything she was about to reign down upon me I replied, “Yes ma’am.”

The night of the dance I was a nervous wreck. I was unsure of so many things. My handicap accessible van had not yet been converted and so I was unable to drive. This meant Karen was going to not only transport us to and from the activities she had planned for the evening, but it also meant she was going to have to lift me in and out of the car to attend those activities. I had heard that we are going the dinner like a picnic in a barn. I was just learning how to eat without the aid of my special utensils and I was unsure how I was going to do that in front of a group and without table. Not to mention having no idea how I was going to actually dance in my wheelchair.

Karen pulled into my driveway in her cute little Toyota Tercel. Unfortunately, the trunk wasn’t large enough to fit my wheelchair, so she had to go home and get her mom’s Country Squire Station Wagon. It wasn’t a car, it was an event. It felt like it took four blocks just a parallel park this thing.

They loaded up my chair, and my dad taught Karen how to get me in and out of the passenger seat of the station wagon and we were off. The first half of the night went relatively well and after dinner we ended up at the dance. We went into the dance and there is a huge long line waiting to get their pictures taken. Karen suggested that we go into the dance and wait until the line for pictures became a little shorter. I said no, hoping that the line for pictures would be long enough that by the time the pictures were actually taken the dance would be over.

We finally reached the photographer, had our pictures taken, and there was plenty of dance left.

As we came on the dance floor the first song was a fast song. I had no idea what to do and so I started to mock what we called the seventh-grade shuffle (because it’s the way all the seventh graders who have no idea how to dance; dance.) Everyone’s familiar with it, for everyone’s not only seen it they’ve actually done it. In essence the “shuffle” is clumsily moving back and forth trying to find the rhythm while you clap your hands.

Although “the shuffle” got me through the first song, by the time the second song was playing my confidence was increasing as was my ability to move with the beat. I started to get a little more aggressive on the dance floor.

I was “feelin’ the groove” and “gettin’ down” by the time the third song had begun. In the middle of the fourth song the spotlights were shining on me, and in my best John Travolta imitation I took off my jacket threw it into the crowd and began pointing my arm up and down thinking, “Stayin’ Alive, Stayin’ Alive!” All of the people at the dance and circle around me and clapping in unison were chanting, “Go Jason! Go Jason!” (O.K. that maybe a little of an exaggeration. Let’s just say I was having a good time.)

Then, it happened. The DJ put on a slow song. If I was unsure about how to dance to a fast song I had no idea what to do with a slow one. I remember thinking, “Punch bowl, get to the punch bowl.” I turned that little wheelchair of mine around and started doing what felt like warp eight for the refreshment table.

Just then, Karen grabbed the back of my wheelchair, spun me around, jumped on my lap, put her arm around me, and said, “let’s dance.”

It was the first time since my accident that I saw my friends wishing day to were quadriplegics. Instantly, they were trying to figure out how they could get their dates to sit on their laps as well. The slow song was over and I felt like seat belting Karen into my chair and asking her if we could dance all the dances like this. Later, talking to my friends at the refreshment table I could see that they were dying to ask if they can borrow my chair for a dance.

The dance finally ended and Karen took me home. I had a wonderful time. It was better than I ever could have hoped for. Somehow, someway she helped me get into the groove.

The real lesson in this story comes when we ask ourselves, “Why?” Why was Karen willing to go through so much grief to take me to the dance.

I was far from the easiest date. It has to take some of the enjoyment away from the experience when leading up to the dance your date is, for the most part, scheming to find a way out of going.

In a time like high school when status is everything and everything defined status, she didn’t get to drive the coolest car to the dance. Instead of her little Tercel she was forced to take the family station wagon. Although my wheelchair fit in the back of the car, there was also enough room for the band, the band’s equipment, the refreshments, the refreshment table, and everyone at the dance. It felt like there was more room in the car than there was in the gym.

In addition, not many ladies like the whole process of asking fellas on dates in the first place, let alone having to lift them in and out of the car along the way. Karen had to lift me in the car at the house, out of the car at the place we ate dinner, back into the car after dinner, out of the car when we arrived at the school for the dance, and back into the car after the dance. Not only was is a lot of work, it was probably a little uncomfortable as well.

I wasn’t the most popular or best looking kid at my school. I’m quite sure there weren’t any students camped out at the school’s entrance wondering, “Who gets to take Jason Hall to the dance.”

But Karen cared. She cared more about me and my experience and she did about all the rest of that stuff. The fact that I went to the dance was more important than status or popularity, and because it was my life became different.

With absolutely no hyperbole I can say that she changed my life. She showed me that I  could find a way to dance without a chaperone’s help. To Karen’s credit I never missed another dance during high school or college.

To some that may seem a small thing. But to me, trying to find my way, it meant the whole world and helped me continue to have the courage to be involved the same way I was before my injury.

Like Karen, everyday we have the opportunity to make sweeping differences in the lives of others. But we can’t just see those opportunities and not act. We have to do something to make a change. We have to do something to make a difference. Most often, it doesn’t take much. Most of the time, it simply takes the willingness to care more about others than we do about ourselves. For the most part, it takes thinking as much about others’ feelings then we do about our own status, popularity or other trivial, meaningless, earthly treasures.

Doing this, like Karen, we can encourage others to live differently. We can teach people to do things they previously thought undoable. It might take a little discomfort or a little sacrifice. It will definitely take a lot of cheering and support. But when we’re finished we’ll leave them with a sense of belonging.

Often, the greatest gift we can ever give is to help others feel comfortable, be accepted and allow them to get into the groove.

Jh-


Standing Up By Falling Down

March 11, 2009
Jonah In My Room

Jonah In My Room

Lying in the emergency room at the St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction Colorado, I was frightened and afraid. For reasons I still do not understand today the staff there wouldn’t let my dad (who sat in the waiting room) come and be with me. I was 15 years old, unable to feel or move anything below my arms, and totally alone.

This lasted for two hours. The doctors did test after test until finally they felt their diagnosis confirmed. It was then that they pull back the curtain, looked me in the eye and said, “Jason, you’ve broken your neck and will never walk again.”

I went into shock. Working to process the information I had been given, the next thing I knew I was laying in a CAT scan. As I laid in the machine, in what felt like a big white tube, I remember as I began to understand that my life had drastically changed. In the CAT scan of flood of worry and concern rushed over me. But, I will never forget the first worry I had .

From that day to this I have had a thousand concerns with reference to my disability. From that day to this I have had a thousand worries about being in a wheelchair. But, the first fear that flashed through my mind was, “Who will be my friend?”

I wondered who would want to go to the ball games with a guy in a wheelchair. I wondered who would want to go on a date or to dance with a guy in a wheelchair. I wondered who would want to just hang out with a guy in a wheelchair.

For, there were other kids at my school who were in wheelchairs and they didn’t have very many friends. I knew I myself had never made an effort to get to know them and wondered how people would react to me.

I was blessed as the countless group of my peers made the decision to bless my life as they answered my question saying, “I will. I will be your friend”

The next day I received a package filled with posters and cards with words of kindness and encouragement. My parents placed the posters all over the room so wherever I looked I was reminded of my friends support. With the posters and cards they also sent a cassette tape. When I was laying in surgery my friends all got together and recorded on both sides of a 60 minute cassette. I listened to that cassette all the time. I listened to it until it broke. When it broke I had my parents tape it back together, and then I listened to it until it broke again.

This continued for about a month until the doctors finally felt that I was healthy enough to have visitors. As soon as they were given the green light, a group of my friends hopped in their car and drove the six hours from our home in Boise to my hospital room in Salt Lake City. I couldn’t wait. I was excited to see every person in that car. They were my friends; friends like Jonah.

Jonah was one of my best friends.  We were as different as night and day. I was completely conservative; he was completely liberal.  I came from a devout Mormon family; his family often spoke and wondered about the existence of God.  My Dad was an entrepreneur with a business where he worked from early in the morning until late at night.  His parents loved their time off in the summer to work in their garden and in their woodshop building boats.  But somehow, somewhere in a place before this time, Jonah and I had made an agreement that on the face of this earth, we would be friends, and we were.   We were as close as two young men could possibly be.

Knowing that my friends were on their way, I watched the clock counting the minutes until their arrival. Finally, they were in the hospital and on their way up to my room.

The group entered the room one by one. Just seeing their faces lifted my heart. It’d been too long since I had interacted with my friends face-to-face and I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. Jonah was the last to enter, and I’ll never forget what happened next.

Jonah took no more than a few steps into my room, looked me in the eye, turned a pale white I hadn’t seen before or since and said, “Hi Jason, how are ya…” and passed out before he could finish his sentence.

To be fair, one has to understand what Jonah saw when he entered the room. The last time he’d seen me I was standing up 6 feet tall, 175 pounds and in the best shape of my young life. Now, I was lying down, and although still 6 feet tall, I now weighed 118 pounds. You could literally see every bone and joint in my body. In addition, I had tubes in my body and the markings of a halo brace which had recently been removed. This, accompanied with the smell that every hospital/care center/long term care facility seems to have was enough to put anyone over the edge.

Flustered and concerned at Jonah’s response, I quickly hit the button to call for the nurses assistance. My nurse came in and because of my poor health was so concerned about me she nearly missed Jonah altogether. She asked me what I needed and I told her I needed help getting my friend off the floor.

They helped Jonah up, took him out of the room, cracked the smelling salts and gave him some time to get ready to come back into the room. He had to lay down on the bed for a while, then stand up for a while and then finally was cleared for reentry.

Jonah passed through the door to my room is the rest of my friends and I were laughing, talking and catching up. He took a few steps toward my bed, again looked me in the eye and said, “Hi Jason, how are ya…” as he passed out.

Again, flustered I buzzed the nurses. They came in, looked at my friend and said something to the effect of, “Oh, him again.” Like before, they helped him out of the room, cracked the smelling salts and gave him some time to “right” himself before he came in again.

After nearly a half-hour Jonah was ready to again make the attempt. As he walked in my room the conversation between my friends and I stopped. We watched Jonah, wondering if he could make it this time. The nurses followed him in. It seemed like their hands were outstretched just waiting to catch him. Again he looked at me, and again he said, “Hi Jason, how are ya…” and again he passed out.

Three times he came in my room, and three times he passed out. He never even finished the sentence. I remember thinking, “How am I what?” The afternoon passed and in the end Jonah was able to spend some of the time in my room without being on the floor.

In my life, I’ve been in a number of hospitals. I have spent literally years of my life in a bed in some sort of a healthcare facility. In that time I have had hundreds and hundreds of visitors. But none has ever meant more to me than Jonah.

Some wonder how that can be. He spent more time outside my room than he did in it, and even in the room he had difficulty finishing even one sentence. But Jonah’s actions proved his friendship in a way words never could.

First, he was willing to endure some discomfort to prove his friendship. When a person passes out it can be an embarrassing experience. Just go to a local junior high choir concert and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Sometime during the concert a little seventh grader will lock their knees and fall right off the top riser. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that when they take their place again their face will be filled with embarrassment–nobody wants to pass out in public. Also, this passing out meant some pain for Jonah. His head wasn’t falling on plush carpeted floors. Each time he fell over his head smacked squarely on hard “hospital smelling” tile floors.

But my friendship meant enough to him that he was willing to go through some embarrassment and some pain to see it through–to show me that I was important to him.

Second, he kept coming back. No one would’ve faulted Jonah if passing out the first time was difficult enough to cause him not to want to come back again. But he did come back. And even though each trip meant more discomfort, embarrassment, and pain his desire to prove his friendship outweighed every negative consequence.

I learned a lot of things that day from the trip my friends made. Not the least of which was that Jonah Shue was my friend.

Every time Jonah fell down his spirit stood up reaffirming to me his friendship. If we want to have friends like Jonah, we have to be willing to be friends like Jonah. We have to be willing to go through some discomfort and pain to prove our friendship is real. We can say all the right things, but if our actions don’t follow suit in the end it really means nothing. That day, Jonah confirmed his friendship with his actions better than he ever could with his voice.

Lasting, confirmed friendships like Jonah’s helped me keep positive in negative times. They helped me remember to have the strength and fortitude that they saw in me. When the people who call themselves our friends act this way they will build us up when others would tear us down.  When we will find ourselves surrounded with people willing to endure the difficult with us, we will begin to enjoy more of the sublime.

I am who I am today because of people like Jonah who chose to stand up by falling down.

Jh-

You can check out what Jonah’s doing today by looking at his video here. (He’s on guitar)


Heavy Lifting

March 3, 2009

My 20-year high school reunion is this summer and the planning for it has already begun.  I know that there will be many people there who have multiple children and many of those children will even be teenagers.  I can’t help but think about how this class reunion will be different for me than our last one; for this time around we will be among the “parents” of the group.  After 16 years of marriage and many obstacles along the way, Kolette and I finally have our first child, Coleman Jason Hall.  (Click here for the story of how Cole came into our lives and click here for the day to day tales of my life as a quadriplegic father.)

But all this talk of class reunions lately has reminded me of an experience I had just following my high school graduation, almost 20 years ago.

Jason at BYU

My first semester at college was particularly difficult. When I broke my neck at 15 my needs changed. I could no longer dress or shower myself and from the time of my diving accident to the time I left for college my family had always helped me take care of those needs. Now, leaving for school I was going to have to allow my roommate and my cousin’s husband to do my care.

I knew my roommate, but he had moved away from Boise during my sophomore year and it had been some time since I had interacted with him on a regular basis. My cousin’s husband I had never met before. This unfamiliarity made me nervous and scared.

First, their help required them to assist me with needs that were fairly sensitive and private. Although most freshmen in college are used to the “group shower” idea, being showered by someone else is a completely different matter altogether. In addition, I was concerned that if I had an argument with either of these aides that the repercussions might be severe. For instance, I wondered if a disagreement between my roommate and I would lead to me spending the night in my chair instead of my bed.

This fear led the homesickness and the homesickness led to a long semester my first semester at Brigham Young University (BYU). I went home every chance I could get. In my first semester I drove home eight times–six hours each way. I used any opportunity I could find to make the trip back home.

I went home for family birthdays, high school Homecoming and Thanksgiving. Heck, I went home for Veterans Day, Arbor Day… in fact any day. From the first of September to the middle of December I found eight weekends with a good enough excuse to return home.

During the semester when I couldn’t return home, and my sadness and discouragement became more than I could bear I would take my chair to a place at the foot of the mountains less than a quarter mile from my apartment. It was a beautiful spot filled with serenity and peace. I found that no matter how down I was on my journey to this spot the discouragement was gone when I returned.

On one such return home, after my spirits were successfully lifted, I found my chair surrounded with a gaggle of children who also lived in my apartment complex. When you’re in a wheelchair this is not an uncommon occurrence. Little kids always curious to know about the chair and have not yet been programmed to be afraid to ask questions. So, as usual the questions began. “Why do you use that?” “How far can you go?” “Can you do a wheelie?” I tried to answer the barrage of questions as quickly as they came.

As the group was asking me any question they could think of, I noticed one little Polynesian boy set apart from the crowd. He didn’t ask one question. He just kept circling me paying particular attention to the sides of my head. I’m not sure I noticed in the first couple of times he circled me, but as he continued to walk around my chair it became difficult to miss.

Finally, he stopped his orbit, stood directly in front of me and as loud as he could, he said, “Hey, you got big ears; like a monkey.”

If my journey that day to my peaceful, serene place had lifted my spirits at all, his comment caused them to again be deflated. Wondering who would say such a thing, I asked him his name.

He replied, “Hickey.”

I remember thinking that between my ears and his name, we were both in trouble.

Returning home I reflected further on the experience I just had. This little, innocent boy, knowing nothing about my situation (or frankly the effect of his words), had changed my day, and not for the better. I began to wonder how often I, who better understood the effects words could have, did the same thing; how many times had people’s days been different because of my influence.

Each day, each of us has countless opportunities to influence others for good or for ill. We each must decide whether the words and actions we use are meant to lift or to destroy. For, each day we find people who need to be lifted. We simply have to decide if we’re willing to do that kind of heavy lifting.

Over two thousand years ago, the most gifted of teachers from Galilee taught us of this responsibility in the parable of The Good Samaritan. In this teaching tale we find a man half dead on the side of the road. As he lays there bloodied and beaten, three men pass by.

The first two do so without a second thought. One a priest and the other a Levite, both important men of the day, seem to just not have the time or energy for the wounded man. The third man from Samaria, who many believed to be less than average, stops to bind up the man’s wounds.

In our everyday lives we, like these three men, pass by people laying half dead on the side of the road. They may not be physically injured, but they do require spiritual and emotional assistance.

We have to choose which tack to take. Will we follow Hickey’s example whose actions, although he was too young to understand them, made me feel self-conscious and less sure of myself. Or, will we follow the Samaritan and use our words and actions to help and lift up. Will we live in ignorance of the people depressed and down, or will we watch for those who need their spirits bound.

When we actively choose to do good in the lives of others a miracle happens. As we  encounter those who feel frustrated, alone and downhearted, we will see our positive interaction have an actual physical effect. These people, who need a positive lift walk through the hallways of our offices and down our streets with their heads down and their backs slouched. After our kind words and a simple deeds, we will see their lives benefit from our actions and watch in wonder as they walk away with their hearts lifted, backs straightened and heads held high.

Then, the real magic happens. As we were walk away from the experience we will find our own hearts happier, our own heads held higher, with a joy in our souls that wasn’t there before. For the work we put in to change the lives of others will, in the end, most powerfully change our own. The greatest gift we can ever give, to others and to ourselves, is the gift of service and love.

In all my years of challenge and adversity I have learned that there is nothing you can do two more powerfully lift your own spirit than to lift the spirit of another. Miracles happen during the heavy lifting.

Jh-

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Want more inspiration from Jason?

A Life Well Crafted

Join Jason and his wife, Kolette, in their online workshop “A Life Well-Crafted” offered through Big Picture Scrapbooking.  You’ll receive motivational messages for everyday living in the Audio Version as well as the opportunity to choose the Full Version of the workshop complete with project ideas to enhance your life.   Click here for more information and to register for the workshop.  It’s not too late to join us!


The Sand Dune Solo

January 21, 2009

I have finally mended from my surgery and I’m back at my blog. Thanks to everyone for your prayers and concern.

sand-dunes
Growing up in Boise, Idaho one of my favorite weekends of the entire year was our “Fathers and Sons Outing.” On this one weekend during the summer all the fathers in our area would take their sons for a camp out. It usually began Friday afternoon and finished on Saturday after a hearty breakfast. Every boy I knew always looked forward to this weekend with great anticipation. I mean, how do you beat a whole weekend with just you and your dad? It was the ultimate boy’s night out.

There was a spot near Idaho City that was traditionally home for this event. It was called “Pinetop” and it looked exactly the way it sounds. It was nestled at the foot of the Sawtooth Mountains with lots of room for games and plenty of trails for hiking. However, I recall one of the years when “Pinetop” wasn’t available and our group ended up spending the night at the Bruno Sand Dunes.

It was Pinetop’s total opposite. It’s 4800 acres of sand. The state park includes desert, dune, prairie, lake and marsh habitat and is home to the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America (470 feet). When you’re there you feel like you’ve been dropped in the middle of the Sahara Desert. Climbing the dunes along with sliding or “surfing” down them always made for a great time, and we were sure that this year would be no exception.

We arrived on Friday, set up camp, roasted some hotdogs had a bonfire complete with “S’mores” and finally, after what I’m sure felt like 100 verses of “Waddley acha” followed by a rousing version of “Kumbaya,” went to our tents to hit the hay.

The next morning brought more pancakes, eggs and bacon then a young boy could ever hope to eat. After cleanup, everyone came together for some good old fashioned father/son games. There were three legged races, potato sack races and the ever popular tug-of-war.

With the games finished the group decided to make a mass exodus to one of the taller dunes. Our destination was in a different part of the park than our main camp and so everyone prepared for a hike that would take somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour.

As the group made their preparations I heard some of the older boys (16-18 years old) making a plan of their own. They wanted to break away from the group and use the shortcut taking them up the face of the Dune. I idolized these boys. Not only were they big and strong and popular at the local high school, but they had taken a special interest in me. It was a regular and frequent thing for them to pick me up and take me for an ice cream or to the park to play frisbee. They let me hang around all the time. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for me (a nine year-old) to ride my bike to their house, knock on their door, and ask their parents if they could play.

Most 16-18 year-olds probably wouldn’t react positively to someone five or six years their junior coming over to play, but they always let me come down to their room, listen to ABBA, and talk about my day.

So, as soon as I heard about their plan to break away I asked them if I could come too. They said that I could as long as I had my dad’s permission. It wasn’t long after my dad said yes that the main group went on their way and we went to follow the shortcut.

I was able to keep up with the older boys all the way to the face of the large dune. However, once at the dune, things changed. It was every man for himself, and as they sped up the face of the mountain I ended up left in the dust. They were all trying to leave their mark as king of the mountain and my little legs just couldn’t keep up. Before I knew it I was looking up the face of this enormous sand dune all by myself.

It was getting to be afternoon by this time and the sand was heating up. When we left camp none of the older boys had shoes, and not wanting to be “sissy” I hadn’t taken mine either. The sand and it felt so soft and comfortable under my feet just hours earlier was now scorching my skin. I tried to take off my shirt and wrap it around my feet, but it was no use. Not only that, the dune seemed like it went on forever.

Crying and a little unsure of how I got myself in this predicament I began to wonder if I would ever see my dad again. I continued to move up the mountain very slowly. I would take a few steps until my feet got too hot and then I would sit down until my rear end became too hot. Back and forth I went inching my way up the sand dune.

Finally, with tears streaming down my face I heard my dad’s voice. I called his name as loudly as I could and was overjoyed when I saw him coming down the dune. He carried me to the top of the mountain on his back. When we reached the top I was surprised. I expected to see the young men I wasn’t able to keep up with, but I didn’t expect to see the rest of the group all there and seemingly without incident. As we returned to camp I found out why it had been so hard for me while it seemed to have been so easy for everyone else to climb the dune.

What I didn’t know when we started the day, was that the best way to walk on the hot sand is single file, rotating people from front to back. Whoever takes the first steps in the new sand has to absorb the most heat. As you move back through the line, following in each others’ footsteps, the sand gets less and less hot.

Being that I had had such a bad experience walking in the sand (and probably because I was crying) they started me at the back of the line. I couldn’t believe how cool the sand was in between my toes. This was the same sand that was so hot on the face of the mountain that it had precluded me from making even one step. As time passed, and the rotating continued, I eventually made my way to the front.

The sand was hot there but because I was with the group I only had to be in the front for a while and just as it became unbearable I got to move back to the end of the line. When we got back to camp and the watermelon bust began, I thought about how much simpler the return trip was when everyone only had to endure the heat a little while.

If we approach our lives the same way we too will find our journey easier. When we set about our difficulties with this kind of mentality we increase our ability to succeed. There are times when we can endure the heat, and those are the times when we we need to stand in front of the line and take as much heat as we can. But there are times when the heat becomes too much. In those times if we will allow ourselves to move to the back and let others take the lead will find that we can persevere no matter how big the obstacle.

In order to truly travel the furthest and the best through the vast difficulties life brings, one must be willing to walk together–always humble enough to help another, never too proud to ask for help. We must stop trying to take do the sand dune solo and walk together all the way to a comfortable camp and wonderful watermelon.

Jh-


Mona Germs vs. Navy

January 13, 2009

mona-germs

I had been in the first grade only days when I found out about health hazard that surrounded not only my elementary school but every other elementary school in the country and across the world. It went by different names in different places but the outbreak was total and complete. In many places the plague was called “cooties” but at my school it was called “Mona Germs.”

There was little girl who attended my school named Mona and for some reason it’d been decided that she had germs. This meant every day when you went to school you had to be careful where you stood. The first person Mona touched in the morning was the one who started the day with “Mona Germs.” They would have those germs until they were able to touch someone else and pass off the dreaded disease to someone else.

As bad as it was to have “Mona Germs” during the day, what nobody wanted was to be the one that had to go home “diseased” because they were last touched. Mona reacted the way most would. She became angry and frustrated.

After a year or so Mona moved away and as I grew older I began to realize how I must’ve made this little girl feel. Now I wasn’t the one who came up with the game, but I didn’t stand up to end it either. I simply went along with the rest, spreading “Mona Germs,” never thinking of the ramifications; never thinking of how it would make Mona feel. Disappointed at how I had acted I tried hard to remember to treat people better.

When I was about 11 years old I met a man who is a great example to me of treating people better. His name was Charlie. Charlie and his wife were a younger couple that lived nearby.

I loved Charlie. I used to ride my bike over to his house and laugh and joke with him as he would always have some story to entertain me with. Sometimes he would pick me up and take me to get an ice cream at the local drive-thru. Charlie took a special interest in me and there wasn’t much I wasn’t willing to do in return.

A few months into building this relationship with Charlie he asked me if I would do them a favor. I answered yes before I even knew what he needed. I couldn’t think of something he would ask of me that I wouldn’t be willing to do.

He told me that his daughter from a previous marriage was coming into town and wondered if I’d be willing to show her around. When you’re 11 years old showing someone around town means taking them to the arcade and for a Slurpee at the local 7-Eleven. But this was Charlie and if his daughter was coming to town I would do my best to show her a good time–even if it meant fronting her some quarters to play Asteroids.

He told me when she would be in town and mentioned how grateful he was for my help. Things had been little difficult for his daughter when she was little because of the family dynamic and a great experience in Boise could make a big impact.

I was excited for this opportunity to help and over the next couple of weeks thought of any way I could make Charlies daughter’s experience in my hometown a memorable one. I wanted to see if I could make his daughter feel is good as Charlie had made me feel.

A day or so before she came to town Charlie stopped by to make sure I was still on to help out. I told him I was and that in fact I had been thinking about it since he first brought it up. He turned to me and said, “Great! I know you and Mona will have a great time.”

My heart stopped. As my brain worked to put two and two together I realized that Mona from the first grade and my friend Charlie had the same last name. Mona of “Mona Germs” was Charlie’s daughter. My face flushed beet read. I was so embarrassed of the way I had treated my friend’s daughter.

Luckily, when Mona arrived she had no memory of me. I worked the entire weekend to pay off the horrible things I had said as a first grader. I learned that day of the cost of treating someone poorly. I learned that day that everyone is somebody’s someone.

Conversely, I spent the week directly before I broke my neck at football camp at BYU. In that July of 1986 I had preceded my family to Utah by a week. I was to spend that week at Camp and at its end my family would drive down from Boise, pick me up and we would head to Lake Powell for week of waterskiing.

In the first hours of my football camp I met Roger French. Coach French was over the offensive linemen at BYU and so as an offensive lineman I fell under his direction at Camp. That summer my friends and I had decided to get real live Naval “high and tight” flat top haircuts. I suppose it was a natural extension for him to nickname me “Navy.”

From the first day it was as if he saw something special in me. Although I was only just finished with the ninth grade he regularly placed me against young men much older than I, saying they could prove their toughness by going against “Navy.” He told the group of players there to hustle like “Navy,” and on the second to last day of camp had me go head-to-head with a senior who had already committed to play center at BYU. I went up against him three times. The first two, I found myself placed squarely on my back end. But with Coach French cheering me on, the third try I found a way to bend but not break and push the larger boy back.

On Friday, the last day of camp, Coach French awarded me the Most Improved Player of the entire group. On Saturday, my parents picked me up and took me to Lake Powell. On Sunday, I became paralyzed from the waist down. I would never play football again.

Coach French didn’t know that this was to be my last experience playing football. He had no way of knowing that my week at BYU would be the final memory I ever had of playing the sport I loved so much. But, because of the way he chose to treat me he made that week on the gridiron extra special. Even  just seeing the word Navy reminds me of the feeling I had pushing the larger center out of the way that week in 1986.

As we interact with those around us we get to choose what kind of feeling or lasting impression we will make. Will we spread “Mona Germs” and make others to feel small, angry and frustrated? Or, will we give people that “Navy” experience causing them to believe that they can overcome any obstacle no matter how big.

It is critical that we remember that everyone is somebody’s daughter, someone’s son ,or someone’s friend. We must be careful with our words, for contrary to popular belief they are sticks and stones–sticks and stones that can be used to tear down and destroy or reinforce and shore up.

Jh-

PS I hope to be able to post on Wednesday but am going in for minor surgery on my hand, and so it may be Thursday or Friday before I’m able to post again. Thanks for your continued support.


It All Trickles Down

January 7, 2009

chart

During the 80’s there was a lot of news about an innovative way to look at economics. It was called “Trickle Down Economics.” It was a new idea for stimulating the economy and sharing wealth.

The basic tenant was to structure the tax code so the wealthy had more money in their pockets. This wasn’t done solely as a benefit to the wealthy but also conceptually as a benefit to those in lower tax brackets as well. The idea was that the more money those with money had in their pockets the more money everyone would be able to call their own.

For the wealthy would want to use their money to become more wealthy. This would motivate them to take those extra dollars to expand their businesses or invest in others. This expansion or investment would create jobs. More people with more jobs would equal more total revenue and therefore more taxes overall. This idea would allow taxes to be lowered without lowering the total amount of tax the government needed to do its business.

Just like anything in government there are some that agree with the idea and some that don’t. Some believe this is a good way to go about running government and there are some that believe it to be total foolishness and a complete failure. Frankly, for our purposes it doesn’t make any difference which side of the fence you’re on; for the purposes of this argument all that matters is that you understand the concept.

Whether or not you believe it works in economics you need to know the “Trickle Down Effect” does work in attitudes. Every day when you choose to be happy or sad it doesn’t simply affect you, it affects everyone around you. Your attitude “trickles down” to people literally all over the world.

The idea of “Six Degrees of Separation” dictates that you can start anywhere in the world with any person and through six connections find your way to you. In essence, someone they know will know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows you.

Think about how much that changes your responsibility with reference to the attitude you choose. Your attitude is going to “trickle down” to the people that you know. “ Six Degrees of Separation” later your attitude has  “trickled down” to someone you’ve never met in the middle of Africa. There they are just living their lives, doing the best they can and if you choose to be negative eventually it will “trickle down” to them.

By the same token think about all the people your positive outlook could change. Think about all the people you know and interact with, and all the people they know and interact with, and so on and so forth. Think about all the good your positive attitude can do.

There are days when it can be hard to find anything to be happy about. On those days it is easy to simply selfishly assume that our attitude only affects us. If we have a bad day and act negatively what’s the damage?

Whether or not you accept that your negativity could really “trickle down” all the way to Africa. It’s not hard to accept that it does “trickle down.” It’s not hard to see your attitude affect those around you. The people you love and care about most will have an easier or harder time to look at the good in their lives based on the outlook you choose to have.

When we realize our decision to project positivity or negativity doesn’t just affect us, our responsibility to keep a positive outlook increases. If we ever hope to live in a world filled with peace, we must take care with the attitude we fill our piece of the world with.

It all comes down to economics. The next time you feel a little down and feel inclined to take time to wallow in negativity, remember your choice affects more attitudes than just your own. Work hard to find the best in your life and live with a positive attitude–not just for yourself, but also for those around you. It all “trickles down.”

Jh-


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