When our son was five years old, he fell and shattered his femur into three pieces.
‘Shattered’ may sound a little dramatic, but when you watch your little guy suffer, when every nurse or doctor interrogates you over what happened, when someone in the ER finally confesses that typically injuries like this are caused by baseball bats … well, we may be excused a little dramatic language.
Long story short… He and his sister were playing on one of those awesome, wooden play forts. He tripped, his sandal caught, and flipped him upside down, smashing his leg against the metal rod of a ladder.
Two hospitals, one long ambulance ride, several sleepless hours, a lot of morphine, and one surgery later, my son was bound ribs to toes in what’s called a hip-spica cast. He had this for ten weeks.
This all happened on Memorial Day Weekend. In other words: our summer was immediately and irrevocably changed.
Even after the summer ended and the cast was removed, we faced four months of physical therapy. He had to learn to walk again. School was different, too, as not all classrooms were handicap-accessible.
It was definitely an unexpected season of stretching for our family.
Once, as we went through old photos and reminisced about that season, Zach said: “I feel bad for kids who never broke their legs.”
Baffled, I asked why.
“They never get to spend all summer at home with their families. They don’t get to spin in wheelchairs or have friends draw on their cast. They never get to use handicapped parking or have everyone bring them gifts for doing nothing. I loved that summer.”
Zach has a different perspective, both on that experience and on 2020.
Finding the Silver Lining
When I think back on that summer, my stomach clenches a bit. I groan inwardly, remembering how hard it was. All the bad pieces come to mind. The sacrifices. The difficulties. So much was out of our control. Plans shifted. Dreams were put on hold. Luxuries vanished. I felt trapped. We were forced to learn new life skills and remember what was most important.
I have the same visceral reaction when thinking about 2020.
While I sit here, sighing heavily over all that was lost, Zach insists this has been the best year of his life. Now, he’s not ignorant of the sacrifices or the grieving this year has brought. His baseball season certainly was not normal. He’s seen the changes we’ve had to make, the impact on my job and our family. (This was NOT a good year to work in the travel industry!) He’s had friends lose parents and grandparents. We’ve felt the impact of this pandemic on a very personal, very local level.
But like I said, he sees things a little differently.
At 15, he can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to go back to school when you could do all your work online and in half the time. He’s an introvert, so he’s thrilled to be stuck at home! He’s perfectly content to eat the same meals over and over for weeks without end. Add to this increased frequency of family game nights and mid-week movies… regular pajama days … more time to hang out with his dog … This kid is in heaven.
We all know this year has been rough. Really, really rough. There’s no denying that. But what if we flip the lens? What if, for just a moment, we stop focusing on the hard bits and look for something beautiful?
What good came of this year?
What did we gain by stripping so much away?
What creative solutions were we pushed to find?
How did those benefit us and others?
What might we have missed if we hadn’t had this journey?
This isn’t just an exercise of reflection, but also one of expectation. What might we — or our kids — be set up to do in the future because of the experiences of this year?
How might these trials have equipped us for greater ministry?
To serve better? To love others better?
I would really love to hear your perspectives on all this.