Irene was standing down the road in front of our house waving at me. She had been gone all summer and I was so glad to see her! I tried to get out of my chair to go greet her, but for some reason I could not move. I couldn’t even raise my hand to signal her to come to me.
Looking down, I discovered the little notebook that I write my reminders in laying in my lap unopened. Momentarily distracted from Irene, I thought that I had better take a look at what I needed to do today. Again, I could not move!
It was then that I noticed that some prankster had lashed my arms and legs to the chair I was sitting in. I found myself smiling at the joke, but when I looked up to see Irene walking the other way, I became desperate. Couldn’t she see that I needed some help here? What kind of a friend was she to casually greet me and then leave me here stranded?
My heart began to race as I struggled to move! But I was bound to the chair so tightly that no effort I made seemed to make a difference.
And then, I woke up.
Yesterday, Bill and I read Chad Hymas’ new book on our drive into Salt Lake. It is well written and thought provoking, but I didn’t realize how much it had touched me until last night when I found the reprieve of escaping from a horrific nightmare; a nightmare from which some people can never wake up.
Chad is a quadriplegic. His book, Doing What Must Be Done, is an honest account of living the daily challenges that most of us will never have to face. At every turn of the page, Chad reveals obstacles that he, and others like him, face everyday.
The fact that his condition was brought about by a single thoughtless moment triggering an avoidable accident, left us both wondering how many times we have tempted fate in a similar way; an introspection that Chad would condemn.
This, for me, was what made the book a quality read. I have read many books that generated empathy for people who live with Chad’s trials. That cannot be discounted. But how does it change my circumstances? What can I take from the reading beyond a warning that “…but for the grace of God, go I?”
To illustrate how Chad makes his personal experience something that is enriching and meaningful for everyone, let me quote from his book.
“The hydraulics failed and a one-ton bale of hay landed on me and broke my neck. I need to ask the larger question. Did this happen for a purpose – or can I create a purpose for what has happened?
‘That was then; this is now’ isn’t just some trite statement tossed flippantly about to avoid dealing with something. It is an important phrase. What has happened has happened. Why it happened is good for our learning and development, but not worth two cents if we just use it to beat ourselves up. Instead of ‘why,’ ask ‘how’ or ‘what.’ … How do I deal with it? How will I turn the circumstances of the accident …to an advantage? What will I do to be more productive and successful?”
I added the bolding in the preceding quote. It is the sentence that underscores the accepting of our own reality, whatever it is. Dwelling on mistakes, poor judgment or ugly events from our past is what paralyzes the average person, making them incapable of solving the problems that are unique to every person’s life.
Chad’s simple statement, “what has happened has happened,” made me stop reading. Bill and I talked about it for some time before going on. I told him that I suddenly recognized why I could not progress in a certain situation. I was spending too much of my energy and emotion in regret, holding on to what I had wanted to happen instead of trying to work my way out of the problem before me. In fact, I think, as simple as it sounds, it is the answer to my future happiness, in more than one part of my life.
Another personal thing that the reading of Doing What Must Be Done did for me was in helping me to recognize my failure to act with empathy toward those with handicaps. This flaw in my character was enacted for me in the dream, when Irene, while friendly, walked away, leaving me to figure things out for myself. Irene would never do that, but I think I have. Chad clearly speaks to the frustration and even anger he feels when people who could help make his life a little easier by some kind of small interaction turn away, either out of embarrassment or indifference.
I have to say that just knowing Chad has helped me overcome some of my shyness. Now that he has opened his heart and told us how it feels, how dare we look the other way? Until now, I did not want to treat a disabled person any differently than I would anyone else, but I think, in reading, I realized that I am not even that aware of my ‘able’ friend’s needs. Perhaps I am lacking in compassion all the way around. And I think I am not alone.
Which leads me to one of the sweetest parts of the book, Chad’s recognition of who the amazing person is that he is married to, his wife, Shondell. Beyond all of the things I learned about living with the challenges of a disability, I was most impressed with Chad’s recognition of the need to sincerely appreciate the love and sacrifices of othe
rs. He dedicates a whole chapter to telling us how wonderful Shondell is. He tells us about other members of his family and friends as well.
I told Chad the other day that I was proud to know him. I am proud to know Shondell as well. They are wonderful people who have much to teach us all.
For Chad my nightmare is his reality. But as Chad’s mentor, Art Berg, a C6-quadriplegic who has since passed away, said:
“Dreams are never destroyed by circumstance. They live or die in your heart. My dreams come true not in spite of my circumstance but because of it…For those of us in this life who are afraid to change, life will change for us. …Dream new dreams or dream old dreams in new ways…”
Chad’s book Doing What Must Be Done, is being released Monday, March 5th.