When I returned home from the hospital and tried to find a way to stay involved the way I wanted to at my high school as a quadriplegic. My biggest obstacle was going to be sports. I knew that although 6’2” almost 300 pounds would look good on the stat sheet, 6’2” almost 300 pounds and paralyzed from the chest down wouldn’t have the same pop on the field.
Unable to participate in the sports I loved so well, a few friends and I began a spirit club called, “The Rowdies.” This allowed me to cheer on my former teammates while still being involved on my own. We did the whole nine yards. We had T-shirts printed up, put on pep rallies, and painted our faces at the games.
After the games we’d all meet at a local pizza place and do all the crazy things high school students do at restaurants after 10 PM, until either the place closed or we were “invited” to leave.
One night, after the game was over and we were finished at the pizza place, I headed home and pulled in my driveway. As I did, I noticed that my parents had parked one car in the garage and another on the driveway. This was a problem. I was supposed to park in the garage. This gave me plenty of room for the automatic doors to open, the lift to come down, and provided easy access to the elevator in our home.
It was a little after 12:30 AM. Because it was late, I decided that I’d maneuver my van in the driveway the best I could and find a place to park without waking my parents up (my being late for curfew may have also had some bearing on that decision). As I opened the door to put out the lift, I remember feeling an incredible chill in the air. It was the middle of basketball season and a particularly cold late December night.
The lift folded out of my van, and I rolled my wheelchair onto the platform. It was freezing and I couldn’t wait to get inside a nice warm house. Still just wearing my short sleeved “Rowdies” T-shirt, I lowered the lift to the ground. What I didn’t know was the concrete underneath my lowered lift was just a little uneven. With the weight of my wheelchair on the lift, the platform was flush against the ground. However, as my front wheels came off the lift there is no longer enough weight to keep the lift even on the uneven driveway.
The lift rose up just enough that it high centered my wheelchair. The front wheels were on the ground but the back wheels weren’t touching a thing. Unfortunately, my chair was only rear wheel drive. As I move the joystick back and forth the wheels simply spun in the air. I was stuck.
For the first 15 minutes I did everything I could to see if I could reach back and use the controls on the lift to put the platform down and give my wheels a chance at some traction. It didn’t take long to realize that regardless of my best efforts this was not going to be a winning proposition. And so, I moved on.
I thought if I could call out loud enough, I could wake up my parents and they could help me off the lift. I quietly called out for them, “Mom… Dad.” I was hoping I could get their attention without waking the whole neighborhood. After 15-30 minutes of that I began to raise my voice, with the same results-still nothing.
As the temperature dropped so to did my concern for the other people in my neighborhood. I began to yell, “Mom… Dad.” I was sure that I was loud enough to wake up my parents and maybe the people across the street. Unfortunately, although my volume increased my results did not–still nothing.
Now I was cold, freezing cold, and so at the top of my voice I screamed, “Mom… Dad.” Twenty to thirty minutes of that without any result convinced me that World War III could begin in my front yard and my parents would sleep straight through it. Giving up on my mom and dad I began to yell and scream and names of our neighbors. “Mr. Nielsen… Mrs. Bishop,” I called with everything I had. Although the names for different, the result was the same–nothing.
It was almost three in the morning, and I was running out of options. It was then that I came up with an idea that couldn’t fail. At the top of my lungs I screamed, “Rape, Fire, Murder.” Twenty minutes later I realized that this idea would fail when it yielded me the same result–nothing, absolutely nothing.
I had one option left. In my hand was a tiny metal rod that held the keys to my van. I thought that if I could throw them hard enough, I could break our front window, the alarm would go off and I would be saved. Knowing this was my last resort, I took a few practice throws. This was going to work, I was sure of it. I aimed carefully, pull back my arm and let the keys fly.
It was a beautiful throw, perfectly on target. As I turned my head in preparation for the shrill of the alarm, like a boomerang, the metal rod turned to the left and fell silently on the ground. It was well past three and I was out of ideas. I tucked my arms inside my T-shirt, strapped myself in and prepared for what I was sure was going to be a long winter’s nap.
Just then, I had one last idea. In my mind I heard the words, “Did you pray?” I remember thinking that I had not and that at best it might help me and at worst it couldn’t hurt.
As I said, “Amen,” my mom walked out the door. She looked at me and said, “Do you need some help?” I remember laughing in my heart thinking, “No Mom, I’m good. Just wanted you to know I’m freezing to death. Please go back in to your nice warm bed.” Not wanting to tempt fate with my smart aleck remarks, I told her I did need her help to which she replied, “I’ll get your father.”
By the time I got to my bed I was so cold that the only way we could warm up my body was for my mom to sleep with me in my bed and try and raise my body temperature with hers. The next day we looked in the paper and saw that the temperatures had become low enough that with my body’s poor circulation I most likely would not have survived the night.
Stuck on the lift I did everything I could do on my own, to no avail. I tried any idea anyone could’ve come up with. On paper, there was nothing else left for me to do. But just like that night there are times in our lives when every conceivable physical option won’t be enough, and we have to turn to the spiritual. Regardless of what God you worship or spirituality you call your own, the things of the Spirit must find their way into our lives if we want to find our way to success.
So, next time you find yourself freezing and stuck, don’t forget to pray.