At fifteen I was sled riding with a friend. The hill was called “suicide hill.” It came by its name naturally. I am not not only kid that ever got injured on that hill, let’s just sat you took a chance with your life sledding “suicide hill.”
We would set off from the slow track, huddled together on the long sled, and head right for the ramp. Trees lined the gasoline road that the neighborhood kids turned into a sledders dream. It was made for speed. The tree cover made a slick icy layer that was hard to recreate in an open field of sledding.
Several times we went down the hill each time hitting the ramp only to get thrown off in different directions, both with layers of clothes on, we would moan and fuss as we would get the wind knocked out of us every time. “What happen?” We would wonder, our goal being to keep on the sled to make a full run, again and again until we got hungry and tired of getting hurt.
It was time to go. I looked to say goodbye to the old hill and noticed the dish sled, we never used, at the top of the hill. I had a great idea. I shared it with my friend and gave her strict instructions. I told her I would make the last run and she would situate herself by a tree near the ramp, and she was to scream if I was heading towards a tree, then we would find out why we were flying off the sled instead of staying on.
Up the hill I went for one last time of fun, but this time with new determination. “I am taking the fast track!” I hollered at her. Then I hopped on the sled crossed my legs, closed my eyes tight, and I was off.
The ride was exhilarating and fast. I hit the ramp, but I landed back on with a jolt. I felt excited to have made it, but quickly after my excitement I felt the need to slow down. I had picked up speed. Something in my mind yelled uncross your legs. I listened to the voice and began to lean back and uncross when, BANG! I hit a tree.
My legs had unfolded into the number four, hitting the tree with my knee that was still folded. Pain filled my body. I opened my eyes to the dark tree limbs above contrasting the white sky. “AHHHHHHHHHHH!” I heard my friend scream. A little late I thought. I couldn’t move. After a few minutes, I am guessing, I yelled back to my friend who was still by the tree, probably in shock, to go get help.
I turned my head to watch her stumble through the snowy forest in the way of her house. I never moved. I think it was because I knew I couldn’t. I don’t even remember my thoughts. I just remember the quiet and the view of the trees against the sky.
In those days parents didn’t always rush you to the hospital so after a week of crutches and not getting better we went to the doctor. I had ripped my MCL and my PCL, injuries most common in football players. Surgery followed with replacement of those two ligaments.
I was young and they tried a new procedure on me that I believe led to new ways of surgery and I healed up in an amazing nine months. I had daily rehab therapy for my leg and much hard work to do on my part, but all turned out okay.
Right before this all happened I was dating a boy who had kept pressuring me into sex, which I did not want to do. I had prayed and asked God to stop me in my tracks if I was not to date him anymore. It was the next day I hit the tree.
I was very aware this was an answer to prayer. The entire experience was full of grace and love. That year I learned what hardship was. I went from being a healthy young lady to a bed ridden. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom by myself. I had to learn to walk again, and learn to ask for help.
I had to be homeschooled for the rest of the year due to the therapy I needed as well as needing to elevate my leg. It kept me from my old boyfriend I had broken up, which was a bonus, and it gave me time to spend with the Lord one on one everyday.
The biggest lesson I learned was gratitude. I remember thinking how much I took for granted. Walking, getting up to brush my own teeth, going to the bathroom alone, going to see friends when I wanted to, were all things of the past. My parents both worked so I was alone most of the time unless my teachers were there for their tutoring session.
I was faced with a choice. I could have a big pity party or I could play the “glad game” like Pollyanna.
This long story I am telling you set the stage for my life. That summer my dad left, by the next spring my mom and I were homeless, and by the next summer we were living in a bridge house in a different town than I grew up thirty minutes from my friends.
The tree incident prepared me for hardship and loss. I had learned to be grateful, so when the world I knew and loved came tumbling down I reached for God in gratitude. I had learned to be grateful for what I had even if it was little.
The lesson has never left me. When all was being limited in the beginning of this pandemic my mind went again to a state of gratitude. Immediately my mind began to look to make the best of what we had and not about what we were losing.
We are all faced with this choice everyday. Maybe you have a story in your life that has taught you this too. When life throws curve balls we always have a choice. We can quit, we can grumble, we can throw a fit, we can have a big pity party, or…we can find something to be grateful for and cling to it.
God is big enough to listen to our woes and losses. I believe he wants to hear them, but after we have cried a little I believe he wants us to live in gratitude. He wants us to play the “glad game.” I am so grateful I hit that tree that day. It changed my life and I think it still is. It taught me to live in gratitude.
I am not saying it won’t be hard and there won’t be tears, because there will be, I am just asking you to play the “glad game” and live in gratitude today.