Yesterday was our annual trek to Children’s Hospital. While there exist few things I would say everyone should do, regular visits to Children’s would be one of them. A simple stroll through the hallways quickly puts life in perspective. As we saw yesterday…
Obesity and undernutrition and the inability to walk.
One little girl’s legs who were thinner than my largest toes.
Casts. IV’s. Legs, arms, heads… all wrapped up.
Wheelchairs… lots of wheel chairs.
Multiple disabilities… including one adolescent, stationary in her chair, who couldn’t seem to hold her head up… in fact, no limbs looked able to be lifted.
A young boy — maybe 3, 4 — only crying in pain in the hallway.
A new mom, with an obvious desperate countenance — cradling her bundled babe, who seemed too young to don both a face mask an IV…
Yes, one trek to Children’s puts life in perspective. It saps our arrogance. It erases any thoughts of “why me” or “woe is me.” It quickly shocks us out of our selfish states and moves us instead to a genuine thoughtfulness of other people… a genuine compassion — not to be confused with the one who believes they are compassionate, but somehow still justifies disrespect or awful, arrogant rhetoric with the holder of an opposition voice or perspective. Perhaps my family’s extended time at Children’s Hospital years ago solidified those roots of respect previously sewn. After all, the Intramuralist comes from an ancestry of strong personalities, including a pastor and a bartender in recent generations. Hence, we talk about all things — and we talk about them compassionately and respectfully.
Several years ago, my youngest son almost lost his life. We spent 3 weeks in Children’s cardiac ICU ward. For most of that time, a machine breathed the breaths our son could not. Josh was born missing a wall in his heart.
While I would wish that experience on no one, I also wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s times like that — that are so deep, so piercing, and so knowingly out of our control — when you figure out what life’s about. I remember one nurse who lingered one morn, shortly after Josh’s vitals had significantly deteriorated. She waited ‘til all others were gone, and then she humbly yet boldly asked, “I don’t get it. How can you be so calm?”
I smiled weakly, with the seemingly few ounces of energy and adrenaline left in my body during those continued days of sleepless nights, responding, “There’s a reason I have the faith that I do. If I’m not going to hold onto it now, why have it?” In the weeks that followed, that faith only strengthened, as I have little doubt my family and I had front row seats to one outstanding miracle. Josh is a healthy, vibrant, incredible young man today.
Each year we go back for our annual visit, checking the heart chambers, evaluating any changes in the leakage that will forever be with him. Once again, yesterday, we were blessed with a positive report.
As we were stopped along one hallway, an older teen pulled up near Josh in his motorized chair. His face and limbs were slightly disfigured, but typical of my Josh, he saw none of that. Josh simply looked at him, smiled, and enthusiastically said, “Hi!”
The teen, who was diligently typing with one finger on the keyboard on his lap — through that amplified keyboard — slowly said, “Can’t complain. How are you?” Josh said, “Awesomeness!” Then Josh asked his name. With a deliberate reply and an awkward but very cool fist bump, Josh turned and yelled, “Hey, Dad! Meet Brad. He can type!”
As I said, those visits to Children’s always put life in perspective.