On the beach directly after breaking my neck I wondered what life held in store for me. The EMTs that finally arrived by boat were fairly convinced that because of the way the accident happened the damage to my spinal cord would not be permanent. This was the news we wanted to hear. About three hours later, the doctors told me that the EMTs on the scene were wrong, that I had broken my neck and become quadriplegic; paralyzed from the chest down.
This was a lot of information for a 15-year-old boy to disseminate. Shortly after receiving the news, I was whisked away to over seven hours of surgery. The next morning as I laid in a specially designed hospital bed that moved back and forth to keep pressure from building up, my parents informed me that while I was in the hospital I had chores to do.
I knew what chores were, I had had them most of my life. Whether it was cleaning my room, setting the table, dusting the house or mowing the lawn, chores were something I was intimately familiar with.
Being in the hospital, I wasn’t necessarily looking for special treatment, but I did think that my current situation was maybe going to buy me a little break from making my bed.
I gave my parents a curious look wondering what they could possibly mean. I wanted to believe the unbelievable as much as anyone, but without a miracle there was no way I was mowing anyone’s lawn.
They proceeded to tell me that the chores I was going to be assigned in the hospital would be a little different. My dad pulled out a set of cards. On the first card was a list of what I had to do. The rest of the cards were part of the work. These were my chores:
1.) Read a list of my talents three times a day.
2.) Read a list of my blessings and things I had to be grateful for three times a day.
3.) Read a list of my dreams and spend time envisioning them coming real.
4.) Read a list of my goals.
5.) Have someone read something positive or uplifting to me once a day.
6.) Have someone read to me from the Scriptures three times a day.
7.) Watch or listen to something funny once a day.
These were my jobs. My parents took these assignments as seriously as they did the ones I had at home. Regardless of whether I felt sick or well, up or down, frustrated or content I had to do my chores.
There are some days I was glad for my list of things to do, and there were others when they were the last thing in the world I want to think about–much like the chores I was assigned at home. But in the end, those chores had payoffs I never would have imagined. Each task brought with it its own reward.
Reading my list of talents reminded me that although physically I had been limited, there were still many things that I could do. I was reminded of all the wonderful abilities I had–and in a world of “disability” that was huge. Reading the list of blessings and things I had to be grateful for reminded me of all I still had in a time when every day I was reminded of things that had been taken away.
Reading my list of dreams reminded me that I still had dreams. In a time in my life when the world seem like one big dark nightmare that incandescent glow of my dreams kept the darkness at bay. Reading my list of goals reminded me exactly what I was in pursuit of, and kept that pursuit firmly ensconced in my mind. Listening to someone read things that were uplifting of a spiritual nature nurtured my soul. They reminded me of the unconquerable strength of a spirit that is well fed.
The humor made me laugh (even on days when I wasn’t sure there was much to laugh about.) In all my days dealing with difficulty and discouragement I have found humor to be a faithful ally. Some of the greatest therapy I have ever had is thinking back to the events of my life with a smile.
Having these chores also gave me something to do. When you first break your neck, your time in ICU is spent laying down and watching TV. I would receive an hour or so of therapy every day, but in those first weeks I simply allowed my body the time it needed to heal. Not to say that this wasn’t difficult, or necessary, it was just slow and without a lot of action. There were necessarily drastic changes every day which made it difficult sometimes to track exactly what was being accomplished.
Completing these chores gave me a sense of accomplishment. Although many of the things were very small things, in my world at that time finishing them each day gave me value and helped me to feel important.
In all the time that I have spent in hospitals I never went through any depression of any kind. I attribute this to a number of things, not the least of which are my chores. Learning the blessings that come from reminding myself of the most important things in my life, of my goals and dreams, and of the laughter left in the world benefited me then and benefits me still today.
I still have chores. I’m still not really good at mowing the lawn or making my bed. But I still have chores.
There is a feeling one gets after a hard days work. There is a feeling one gets after a hard days work. It’s a feeling of complete exhaustion and total contentment. It’s the knowledge that we’ve given something back to the world and that things are better both in our life and the lives of others due to our efforts. Chores taught me that if I ever wanted to succeed I needed to work to have that feeling everyday.
Give yourself chores, not just tasks, but chores like I had. Remember your talents, remember your blessings. Dream and envision those dreams becoming reality. Set goals and work to accomplish those goals. Read or listen to things that lift and make you laugh. Never forget to nourish your spirit and sense of humor.
When you do you’ll find a sense of fulfillment, accomplishment and well-being. Chores will make your life more rich, full and bright. As a young boy I never thought I’d say this, but I am grateful for chores.