Grateful for Good Timing

November 27, 2010

The Thanksgiving week forever changed for me in 1997. For, on November 21st of that year, I was driving down the interstate when my front left tire blew sending my van careening across all three lanes of traffic heading my direction, through the median, and into the oncoming traffic. I hit a car, a car hit me, and it about killed me.  The doctors told my family there was no chance that I’d ever make it

I spent the next 13 consecutive months hospitalized, and really the majority of ever year after that in hospitals across the country throughout the next ten years. 2008 was the first year I didn’t stay at least two consecutive months in a hospital bed.

In many ways, this second accident has been more difficult than when I broke my neck. Some may think it impossible to have a paralyzing diving accident surpassed, but where the first accident had an instant totality; the second has had a persistent longevity.

In large part, two years after my diving accident I knew what my life was going to be like. I was back at school full time, driving, with the stamina of my peers. I knew those limitations, and other than a few bladder infections there was a baseline I could count on.

The second time around has been the complete opposite. It’d probably be easier for me to name the bones I didn’t break, than to list the ones I did. It brought with it a chronic pain that for much of the time kept me in a narcotic fog or debilitating pain. It’s been anything but dull though. Oftimes it’s felt as though just as one issue is resolved, another rears its ugly head.

Now, make no mistake, there’s been more joy and happiness in the days since November 21, 1997 than doom and gloom. We even celebrate the day of my accident. It’s an anniversary after all, and anniversaries are made for celebrating. (for more on the second accident and the anniversary tradition, click here.)

That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard though. It doesn’t mean that, try as I might, I don’t find myself wondering what might have been. It doesn’t mean I don’t get tired, down, frustrated and depressed. There are days when it takes everything I’ve got to keep on smilin’.

But every time that week in November rolls around, the 21st hits and it gets as difficult as it is at any time in the year, I get a blessing most don’t—Thanksgiving—a day when all you do all day long is think about your blessings. I know a lot about adversity, and there is nothing you can do to light up depression’s darkness than shine bright gratitude upon it. A thankful heart is the antidote to depression’s deadly venomous sting.

For some reason, this 21st was harder than most. I’m not exactly sure why, but my spirits were way down, and my chin was far from up. Things were hard leading up to the day, and for some reason I really got thinking about “Could have been’s,” and, “Why me’s?” (and we all know those don’t ever do anyone any good) and the fact that I wasn’t as vigilant about celebrating my “anniversary” didn’t help at all (see what comes from getting lazy!)

But then, just when things started getting their bleakest, four days later my annual blessing—Thanksgiving.  And ironically, in a year when this day was the most difficult in recent memory, I had more to be thankful about in recent memory.

Here are a few of the gratitudes that topped my list:

My Faith: In a year where I’ve been pushed to the brink, I know that I would have gone over the edge without my faith in God. His words, His Spirit, and His love have helped me get through those un-get-through-able days, and allowed me to find peace in a world swirling all about me. I know God lives and there is nothing in my life I have to be more grateful for than that.

 

My Girl: You don’t have to be around me long, or read much of what I’ve written to expect this one on this list. But this year is different. On the first of June, Ko was hospitalized with acute gall-stone pancreatitis, and on the third at 3:00 am I almost lost her. Just writing those words makes my eyes well up. But, as I think of the courage she’s shown and the valiant way she’s fought every day from that first day to this very day, makes me weep. She’s my best friend, my love, my hero and my inspiration—my everything. I am so grateful she’s still alive, and am blessed to have witnessed and continue to witness her strength and courage.

My Wingman: He’s been with me through it all this year. I don’t know what it is, but he has wisdom beyond his years. He always seems to know the right thing to say, the way to make me smile, or just the right look to lift my heart. I’m never alone with Coleman around. I am grateful for the light he’s been in my life. Just hearing him bust through the door screaming, “Dad!” brings light to my darkest day.

The Chorus:  A chorus by definition is a group of voices that come together. There’s no soloist, in fact, the reason great choruses sound so beautiful is that everyone contributes equally with everything they’ve got. I wouldn’t have made it any day of any year since 1997 without my chorus. But it hasn’t been shown as clearly or exhibited as perfectly in any year since ’97 than this one. The people who have pitched in to help me and mine make it through the hardest days than the support my chorus has provided this year. Many of the faces are ones you’d recognize. Parents (on both sides), brothers and sisters from the same, cousins, friends, and neighbors—they’ve all been there. In hospital rooms, bringing meals, watching Coleman, sharing a kind word, a compliment in person or on the blog have lifted my spirits more than anyone will ever know. I am lucky and grateful to have such people blessing my life.

These big gratitudes have lifted me, obviously through the whole year—but especially through the last few days. One of the things I love about gratitude is that it always makes me feel rich.

With things like this to be grateful for, I dare you to show me a wealthier man in all the world. I’m blessed—In so many ways. Not the least of which is that Thanksgiving is so close to the 21st of November.

I encourage you to partake of some of this “good medicine” for yourselves. Take a moment to leave a comment about something you’re thankful for. Doesn’t have to be a big act or blessing, it’s amazing how sometimes the littlest things bring the most mercy. The more of us that share—the more we each get to think about the great and wonderful in our lives. And the more that attitude of gratitude spreads the more the doom and gloom, the frustration and consternation are chased from our souls letting the light of hope shine bright.

I am grateful for the power of gratitude.

Jh-

PS: in an effort to show my gratitude for your sharing, one person leaving a comment will win a set of my motivational cards,  one of my autographed DVD’s (both seen here) and a $15.00 gift card from Walmart for munchies. ‘Cause what DVD’s not better with a little treat to go with! —Right?

And spread this one around; let’s see how many gratitudes we can come up with. Comments must be entered by Tuesday, November 30, 2010 at 10:00 pm PST.


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.


100 Things

November 28, 2009

About eight months after becoming a quadriplegic, I was enduring a particularly difficult time.  I’d been blessed, and up to that time hadn’t really gone through and depression of any kind.  But, now it seemed as though things were beginning t mount.   I was more frustrated, depressed and discouraged and down than I had ever been since the accident.

I had been taught often about of the power of gratitude in the home I grew up in, and felt that if I had any chance to find a way out of the darkness my feelings had brought with them, it would be in large part because of some increase in my own gratitude.

In an effort to find a way to feel blessed, I pulled out a piece of notebook paper from my backpack and numbered it to 100.  I felt like 100 would be a lot, but nothing that couldn’t be easily handled in 15-20 minutes.

I was right—about the first 25.  They were simple and easy.  They were the big ones—stuff like family and friends, where I lived and what I had.

The second 25 took a little more thought.  The third 25 really made me think.  And, at 16, in order to finish the last 25, I wrote down anything I could see.  I was thankful for stuff like light bulbs, pencils, and the tacks that held up the posters in my room.

In fact, Number 99 on my list was the fact that I could pick my nose. (For more about that read here.)

It took the entire afternoon and most of the evening, but, when I was finished, I had my list.  Just having it in my hands made me more grateful; and by being more grateful, I began to feel the beginnings of a more positive attitude.

Through the next weeks and months, every time I felt down or depressed, frustrated or fraught with negativity, I pulled out my list—and each time I read my list, I started concentrating on what I did have and quit worrying about what I didn’t.  This new tool helped me to see the best and forget the worst.

This Thanksgiving I have been thinking about that original list more than usual.  So, in the spirit of the season and in honor of the original list, I spent some time yesterday creating a new list.

The thing that surprised me the most, was that my heart was as lifted as much this time as it was when I created the original list on that lined notebook paper all those years ago.

Here it is then.  I share it with you hoping that maybe seeing mine will inspire you to make a list of your own.  If you will, I promise a spirit filled with gladness and hope and a excellent tool in the fight to stay positive.

Remember what I’ve said before, “There’s not enough room in the human heart for depression and gratitude at the same time.”

Jh-

Jason Hall’s 100 Things To Be Thankful For

  1. My Faith
  2. Kolette
  3. Coleman
  4. Mom
  5. Dad
  6. Kendra
  7. Clinton
  8. Brandon
  9. Nathan
  10. Mom Coleman
  11. Dad Coleman
  12. Brothers & Sisters In-Law
  13. Grandparents
  14. Nieces
  15. Nephews
  16. Living in the United States
  17. Chance To Have Freedom of Religion
  18. Power Wheelchairs
  19. Accessible Vans
  20. Opportunity to get the best Healthcare
  21. Powerful Friends
  22. My Car
  23. Our Home
  24. Heat
  25. Air Conditioning
  26. Clothing
  27. Computers
  28. iPhone (and the return of the bar phone)
  29. Voice Recognition Software
  30. National Ability Center
  31. Disabled Skiing
  32. Bi-Skii’s
  33. Sight
  34. Hearing
  35. Sense of Smell
  36. Full Use of My Mental Faculties
  37. Growing up in Boise
  38. The Chance to live in The Eastern US
  39. Interfecal Pumps
  40. Graduating with my High School Class
  41. Attending BYU
  42. Working as BYUSA President—and all the people I worked with
  43. IVF
  44. I CSI
  45. TESI
  46. Rock Band
  47. The Million Dollar Round Table
  48. Mutual Of New York (and the people there)
  49. Garrett Burger, Large Gems, and a Cherry Scotch and Soda
  50. The Bible
  51. The Book of Mormon
  52. My Testimony
  53. My Eternal Marriage
  54. Pistachio Dessert
  55. My Eagle Scout
  56. The Scouting Program
  57. The Chance To Serve
  58. Football
  59. Words Written in my Journal by my Mom When I Was a Kid
  60. Baby Ruth Bars
  61. Broadway Musicals
  62. Cougars, Cowboys, Jazz, Celtics, Yankees, Real Salt Lake
  63. My Letterman Jacket
  64. The Ten Lepers by Jack Christensen
  65. Electricity
  66. Television
  67. Ability to Move My Arms
  68. Atonement
  69. Repentance
  70. Fasting
  71. Prayer
  72. Plan of Salvation
  73. Miracles
  74. My Boys in New Canaan
  75. The YM in Syracuse
  76. Optimism
  77. The Ability to Speak Publically
  78. Disability Insurance
  79. Workmans Comp
  80. The Inspiration to Go to Work on 21 November 1997
  81. Great Nurses
  82. Great Neighbors
  83. My Cousin David
  84. Love of Singing (and how it literally saved my life)
  85. Family History
  86. Great Music
  87. Uplifting Music
  88. Movies
  89. Showers/Shower Chair
  90. Forgiveness
  91. Repentance
  92. Having Kolette at My Side.
  93. Good Parking
  94. Straws
  95. Ramps
  96. Elevators
  97. Family Dinners
  98. Goals
  99. The Fact That I Can Pick My Nose
  100. Lists of Gratitude

I Can Do Anything For 80 Years

October 22, 2009

Hospital Traction 1st Acc._2

I have been taught the importance of being positive from the youngest days of my life.  I don’t remember a time when having a PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) wasn’t a regular part my parents instruction on the proper way to live a life.

Therefore, growing up, I tried to make a positive outlook a part of my life.  I tried to look at the glass half full, tried to see the best in those around me and tried to concentrate on the good and forget the bad.

Then at fifteen and a half, on the 13th of July 1986 my life changed in a second.

I went from a completely healthy young man in the best shape of my life to paralyzed from the chest down with only partial use of my arms and no use of my hands.

As difficult as that transition was, it was the first nights that were the most harrowing.  My lungs filled with mucus to the point where you could barely see any clear part of my lung on the x-ray.  My pulmonologist told me it was the worst case of pneumonia he had ever seen.

You didn’t have to have a medical degree to understand that my life was in the balance.  In those days, I had one wish.  It wasn’t to walk, it wasn’t to be accepted back at home, and it wasn’t to have a normal life-It was to live.

All I wanted was to wake up the next morning.

After a few days when I began to feel, not quite out of the woods, but on my way there, my dad came to the side of my bed and asked me if I felt like I could deal with life as a quadriplegic, I replied, “I can do anything for 80 years.” I was so grateful that I’d kept my life—everything seemed better.  Even paralysis seemed doable.

In the days since then, I’ve almost lost my life at least one other time.  And in those days, good or bad, I’ve tried to recall  that same feeling.  Whenever life gets difficult (as it often does) I try to remember that no matter how bad it gets, I still have my life.

Knowing that I am still breathing makes everything else challenging small in comparison.  It makes a real difference in my effort to live a happy life.  It is difficult to complain about the stumbling blocks when you find a way to remember that you are still around to stumble.

When things get hard, remember to love life.  Be grateful that you are still here.  Be glad that you have a chance to struggle and the negativity will be replaced with that Positive Mental Attitude I was taught so much about in my youth

Jh-


…And Now For Something Completely Different

January 5, 2009

I thought today I’d offer up something different.  I’ve attached a video clip of me doing what I do. This is a clip of me speaking about gratitude. If it sounds familiar it’s because I’ve already posted this story written here. But, reading it and seeing it presented are two different things. Enjoy, and tell me what you think.

Jh-


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-


Wake-Up Call

October 6, 2008

In my work, I am required to do a lot of travel. I must say it sounds a lot “sexier” than it is. Mostly, it’s arriving late the night before an event and departing late the day after, and usually little more than airport-hotel-airport.

On one such arrival, after I had gone through the process of checking in, I was so tired I was aching for bed.  The hotel was a small hotel, and it was obvious that the gentleman at the front desk did everything from check-in to setting out the morning bagels, so I decided to ask for my wake-up call right there.

He agreed to my request, and as he began to get my information, he remarked how the hotel doesn’t get as many wake-up calls as they used to, and that people seem to prefer the alarm on their cell phone instead. As I thought about it, the same seemed true in my own experience. All the people I traveled with from my wife to my siblings to my aides preferred using the alarm on their mobile phone. I looked back at the attendant, who was quietly waiting seeming to hope that this information had caused me to change my mind and lighten his workload.  I told him that his information was interesting and, although he was probably right, I still wanted my wake-up call.

I like wake-up calls. They are my security blanket. I too use my cell phone’s alarm, but I always set a wake-up call to go off about 10 minutes after my alarm, just in case. That way, I can go to sleep knowing that I won’t wake up late due to some mistake I made or phone failure. Wake-up calls help me make sure I don’t sleep through the important things I can’t afford to miss. When I think the wake-up calls, I can’t help but remember a Saturday morning when one changed my life.

On this particular Saturday morning, I’ve been asked to speak to a group of children about how we are all different, and whether we have red hair or we don’t, are in a wheelchair or we aren’t, everyone is “O.K.”  As I got ready early that morning for the event it was obvious that it was going to be one of “those” days when everything seems to turn out far from “O.K.”

I failed at nearly everything I tried to do that morning, and the things I didn’t fail at still turned out badly.  My pants were all askew, I’d gotten toothpaste on my tie, breakfast turned out lousy, and on my way to the event I realized I had left the directions on my kitchen table. It was most assuredly a day where it didn’t feel like it was okay to be in a wheelchair, when it definitely did not feel okay to be “different”, and the last thing I wanted to was to go try and convince an hundred kids that it was.

But it was too late to cancel so I went. I remember thinking this was the last thing I needed that morning and hoped that I could just get in, get out, and move on.

Upon arrival, I introduced myself to the woman who had scheduled me for the event.   She proceeded to tell me they had brought three other individuals with disabilities to speak as well, so, instead of speaking to all kids at once, they were going to divide the children into four groups and rotate them through.

“Great,” I thought, “now I don’t just have to talk about how I have a great life in a wheelchair once, I’d have to do it four times.” This just quadrupled the amount of time I was going to have to be there that morning.

The meeting began with all of us in the same room. The children were given instructions and just before they were set loose, the woman in charge of the event had all of the children sing, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” reminding everyone there about what a wonderful thing the body was. I wasn’t sure I agreed, but I knew the song and so I sang with everyone else.

As I began to sing, out of the corner of my eye I noticed one of the other speakers with a disability. He too was in a wheelchair, and from the way he sat in his chair, it seemed our disabilities were very similar. But what wasn’t similar, was the way he was throwing his arms all about. For the life of me, I could not figure out why a grown man would move around in such a way in public during the song. I remember thinking that he looked like he was conducting the music. The only problem was, he wasn’t facing the children, and that was definitely different.

Just as the next sarcastic remark began to form in my mind it hit me. He was deaf. Like me, he couldn’t move his hands and so he had had to come up with his own sign language. That was why his arms were moving about so. And what’s more, he was doing it all with a smile on his face.

Talk about a wake-up call. All of a sudden all those things that frustrated me so much that morning didn’t seem so big. In fact, they seemed quite small-petty even. He had so much less than I and yet his attitude was so much better. I never even spoke to the man and yet he taught me a lesson that I will never forget, and because of my poor attitude I nearly missed it. It is easy to get lulled to sleep in our lives, and if we stay that way we will miss the many lessons those great people around us have to teach.

We have to wake up and listen to the lives of those around us and let them teach us to be better the way this man taught me. Then, fully awake and fully aware each day a new person will teach us a new way to live happier. If we will look, we can find examples in books, on television, in our neighborhoods, and on our streets. And if we will see, we will learn to live with more gratitude and grace instead of complacency and complaint.

We need wake-up calls. They help us make sure we don’t sleep through the important things we can’t afford to miss.

Jh-


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