Cooked Bananas or Grilled Cheese?

October 23, 2008

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

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

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

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

A tasty grilled cheese sandwich

A tasty grilled cheese sandwich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jh-


Shun Fujimoto

October 18, 2008
Shun Fujimoto after the Montreal Games

Shun Fujimoto after the Montreal Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jh-

Below you can find a short video on Shun


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