Sunday, October 24, 2010

I Think I Can!

What a rough week! Oh, what a dark night of the soul! While I could complain in this blog about the trials and disappointments of this past week and month–which would be utterly boring and pointless for you to read–I shall instead focus on hope.

Hope? After this dark week? Yeah, that’s how I felt, until my friend surprised me by saying that I was the most hope-filled person she knows! And I began to wonder…why? Why do others say I am a person of hope? What makes a person of hope?

I was three years old, alone, in darkness, my head throbbing with pain, strange smells, strange bed, and foreign voices. Where was my mom? Where was Dad?

The car crash had instantly killed my father and injured my mother. Choking and deprived of oxygen, I was within moments of death when they found me and began doing CPR on me. With a cracked skull, concussion, a ruptured eardrum, bruises and a black eye, I was sent to Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee. Alone and far away from my mom, who was in the hospital in another city, my prognosis was not good. My two aunts visited me regularly to sit and hold me in their arms, but I refused to eat anything and turned to sleep. When it became obvious that there was no physical reason why I couldn't survive, my male nurse worried that I was giving up on life, that the darkness and pain was too much to bear. Life without hope is no life at all.

At the nurse's bidding, my mom recorded a tape and sent it to me. It was her voice singing songs to me, telling me stories, and saying how much she loved me. I can still hear those soft words in my mind to this day. She was a mother in one hospital bed calling out to her child alone in another hospital: “Live! Choose to live! I love you!”

Thanks, Mom.

And on that tape, my mother read me the story The Little Engine That Could. Do you remember a favorite book from your childhood? This one is mine. The little blue engine said yes to help pull the train loaded with toys and good gifts for children to the other side of the mountain. Pulling with all her might, that little blue engine chugged up the hill, repeating, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”

This children’s story still quickens my heart today and stirs up emotions inside me. It has become the mantra of my life.

I decided then and there to live. After listening to the entire tape with my eyes open, I decided that I was not going to give up on life. I began the fight to live. And when my aunt offered me a mashed banana after the recording was over, I ate it. Something stirred in my breast and made me believe that no matter how awful the darkness was that I was going through, life would still be worth living. Wow! I healed!

The next few years of life would be hard and mournful. Losing my father was the foremost reason for my clinging to hope. Growing up without my dad is a loss that only feels itself deepen, not fade, with time. Therefore, I know that it is our various trials in life that influence us and teach us the reality of hope. We choose to be hope-filled.

Hope is courage. Hope is endurance. Since my childhood, I have chosen to live by the motto “I think I can!” and “I thought I could!” And onward through this vale of tears and over mountains, this little engine keeps chugging along, hopeful, optimistic, and smiling!

I know I can!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I'm Blogging!

I have a confession to make. I have not sat down to blog in the last three weeks! NOR have I been diligent in taking daily walks.

“Walking itself is a cognitive act. The more I hike, the more I find my words,” said Mary Kay Baum, a courageous woman I met recently with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. I was attending her inspirational talk as a reporter and taking down her words, so I could write an article about her. How true about the cognitive power of walking! How often do we think of hiking, or biking, or ballroom dancing, or any kind of exercise for that matter, as a cognitive act? Yet, it is employing our mental faculties. And so often as a writer, I find that when I’m walking, then the words come.

This fall, I’ve gotten the chance to hike several times on wooded trails with friends. We call these excursions Emmaus Hikes because we use it as a time to reflect on the Scriptures and pray with each other, as well as to explore and appreciate God’s breathtaking creation. Last week, we trekked over a carpet of gold, leaves of the most lustrous golden hue, under the arches of a wooded cathedral. We followed a trail beside a running creek that gurgled as it fell over grey rocks and flowed on its course. We walked through a field of prairie grass with purple wild flowers. We moved within this still setting of tranquility.

A different experience with nature happened to me last month. I went to Lakeside Park alone and sat down on a rock by the edge of the largest lake in Wisconsin. Rather than being in the cloister of the woods with the companionship of friends, here I was out in the open air with the lake stretched out so deep and wide before me. This time the wind was stirring up the water and forcing it to come crashing against the rocks. Nature’s commotion seemed to aptly express the emotions in my heart that day. And in the wild roughness of the wind and water, my only companion was a forlorn fisherman, who kept moving along the rocks in search of a lucrative spot. Seemed he was as restless as my heart, though I didn’t move. The cut in the chill autumn breeze kissed my face. It was a brisk beauty, wild and free, rough and crashing. And as I sat there, my frantic heart found rescue and peace. I related with the duck, bobbing up and down on the water, being pushed along by forces greater than it, which it hardly understood. I became filled with awe of how small I was and great I am at the same time. Here was this little writer, this broken seeker, on the rocks being swept up into God’s awesome creation. How wonderful are the works of your Hands, O God! And who am I to tell of them? The rhythm of the waves, rough as they were, calmed my heart.

I have walked the park with many people. I have sat by the water’s edge with different friends. And I’ve learned that not everyone reacts the same way. While one person walks with deliberate step and purpose, another walks leisurely, savoring the moment. While one walks to conquer, another walks to be conquered–by beauty, by nature, by conversation and by nature’s romance. Myself, I walk to be conquered. The words come as I breathe in deeply and reflectively of the larger purpose through which I trek.

It’s good to be back.