Tuesday, September 2, 2008
I've always been a bit of a plodder, so it was with some satisfaction that I came across a quote by Abraham Lincoln as I contemplated the gathering this week of the Party of Lincoln in Minnesota: "I am a slow walker, but I never walk backwards." He certainly was an example of persistence and perseverance in the face of hardships.
Sitting with my leg elevated above my heart, I have had time to reflect on my ordeal. Like anyone would, I've asked myself "why me?" and held several "pity parties." But I've also asked "why not me?" Of late, I've meditated on what I am learning from these experience so I can move forward, and not backwards. Three major lessons come to mind and I write them here for my own understanding and perhaps to help another:
1. Be Humble - I am grateful for a wife who, throughout my career in the public sector, has gently and timely reminded me that at the end of the day, I'm really not "all that," and I need to "keep it real!" Sometimes power and authority can be a giddy thing. We've been let down too many times by those who have proven the maxim that "power corrupts." Trappist Monk Thomas Merton taught that “pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” Sometimes, we are compelled to be humble. To me, humility is a recognition that no matter our physical prowess (or what we aging men believe our prowess to be,) our education, profession, status, authority or power, we are all, in the final summation, equally subject to infirmities of the flesh. If we are to live and succeed in our time on this earth, we must recognize that we owe, first and foremost who and what we are to God; and second to those with whom we associate in this life: our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and fellow citizens. In humility, I am firmly aware that my elected position means one thing: to serve the people of this great state by securing their rights, opportunities and privileges, and protecting them, their families and their children.
2. Be Patient – Despite rigorous preparation and planning, we unfortunately do not always control our course or even our abilities; so that when we are afflicted, we must trust in God, the marvels of modern medicine, and the love, support and prayers of others. Next we need to get up each day, put one foot in front of the [Ilizarov fixator rings], and do as much as we are able given our physical or other limitations. We must be patient in suffering and setbacks, and in the words of Winston Churchill, "Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in."
3. Be Empathetic - I took for granted my good health and relative athletic ability to play a lot of sports. Those activities took a toll on my joints and bones resulting in twelve surgeries including an artificial knee at the age of 42. But I always healed well and quickly. This time it has been different; and after eleven months spent in hospital beds and wheelchairs, with walkers, crutches and canes, and utilizing shower chairs, toilet risers and grab bars, I have learned a profound empathy and appreciation for those whose disabilities are permanent, and who will every day, and always, face obstacles but who nonetheless approach each day with humility, faith and courage and make an amazing difference in the lives of others. I will try to be more like them, even when - especially when - my health returns.
One of the most amazing and heroic Utahns I’ve met through all this is Sharon Ross in Brigham City who has never been out of a wheelchair (and her saint of a husband, Weston, who has lovingly cared for her every need for decades;) but they have together, and individually, accomplished amazing feats of family, work, art and charity.
More recently a humble, patient and empathetic David Watson posted a comment on my blog: "I pray for your full recovery. I was not so lucky. I was involved in a freeway rollover accident in January and lost my left leg. After 5 months in the Hospital and rehab, I'm doing fine. If you every need someone to talk to, I would be glad to talk." I called but he is taking his youngest son to BYU-Idaho. I can't wait to talk with him. If you want to be inspired, go to his blog: http://davidewatson.blogspot.com
I love to think on the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Consider this:
"Think on this doctrine,--that reasoning beings were created for one another's sake; that to be patient is a branch of justice, and that men sin without intending it."