I saw a man on You-Tube last week who was born with no arms and no legs. He had a grotesque and only slightly-functional flipper that grew out of his hip where the legs, but for a damaged gene, should have grown. He was not ashamed of his flipper. In fact, he brought attention to it and made everyone laugh instead of cringing when they saw it wiggle. He “stood” like a weeble on a stage in a High School auditorium and played the drums for the teen-agers with his flipper as he told the kids his story. He asked the crowd if they had ever felt like they couldn’t go on. Then he purposely tipped himself over and proceeded to tell the school how long it had taken, and how much work it required, for him to learn to get back upright on his own. Then he showed them what could be done by a man with seemingly no hope and after a rather amazing struggle, was standing upright again. As the cameras panned the auditorium, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
I saw a man yesterday standing by the freeway on-ramp whose leg was missing just below his knee. He held a sign asking for help: “Homeless Vet, anything helps.” He had crutches that helped him hop around while waiting for handouts. His rounded stump stuck out of his rolled-up jeans. He looked like a man with little hope. I was past him so fast I didn’t even think of pulling out a bill until he was getting smaller in the rear-view mirror. I should have gone back and given him something. I almost did. But almost won’t pay for his cot tonight. I heard later on the radio that there are 1600 homeless veterans in Colorado. That is certainly not right.
I saw a man today inching across an abandoned parking lot in a paraplegic’s wheelchair. His deformed hand was struggling with the joystick control of his motorized chair. No one else was in sight, so I had to applaud him for being out on his own, even though it was obviously difficult for him. He seemed to be heading somewhere with a purpose. I wonder if I were in his position if I could even maintain a purpose. I like to think that living is purpose enough, but tragedies like this can make you question a lot of beliefs.
I saw a man tonight on TV with no legs. A Desert-Storm warrior, wounded by an IED – the cowardly, impersonal weapon of choice of the radical jihadist Muslim – adjusting to life with prosthetic limbs and phantom pains. He didn’t speak of his problems. He only bemoaned the buddies who didn’t survive the blast and came home in a box. He gave himself willingly for our freedom and I thank him for his sacrifice and honor.
My grandson, Ethan, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes two days ago. He’s only 6 and doesn’t totally understand the magnitude of the diagnosis. He will have many challenges ahead of him – for the rest of his life – as will his parents and little brother. We’ve all cried a lot the last 48 hours and my heart still bleeds for him when I think of the trials and hassles he’ll have to go through as he makes adjustments to what used to be the perfect life. But, he hasn’t been blown up. He still has all his appendages and he’s not paralyzed. I’m pretty sure we’ll all be OK. In fact, in the larger scheme of life, his is still pretty perfect.
After seeing the sights of misery and despair that I described above, I resolve to buck up and not spend even one more minute bemoaning his fate. As I write this, I will shed my last tear. The pity party is officially over. I have a job to do to help him. His Mom & Dad have a job to do. His Grammie and his brother and his Aunt TT and UncaKev have a job to do. Ethan will eventually be able to do that job himself, but for now that job belongs to his family. The job of keeping him healthy and happy, and not allowing him to despair is too important to get sidetracked by negative thoughts ("Stinking Thinking".) And in those times when I start to feel sorry for him, or for me, or for his parents, I’ll remember these other sad souls and count my blessings. I’ll remain thankful for all that we DO have and not cry about what we no longer have.
I hope I can keep this purpose – I want to do that for Ethan. To show him what can be done when you don't give up. We give thanks today for all that we have and pray for those that have less.