"This experience encouraged us to help others in their own suffering. It taught Everett a major life lesson: what it looks like to love others as we would love ourselves. It showed him great compassion, faith, community, and the comfort and power of prayer."
There was a time, in 2016, when my firstborn son was terribly ill and hospitalized for a disease known as transverse myelitis. In a rare case, he was paralyzed from the waist down after a bout with pneumonia. This is something that happens to about 100 children in our nation a year, and from which only about 1/3 recover.
When our pediatrician diagnosed it, she broke down in tears. It was at this time when I came face to face with the gracious, giving, and genuine community at our school. I had always known we were part of an exceptional community, but it is one thing to know a truth, and another to see that truth applied vigorously.
This was a time when we saw it clearly: families we didn't know brought us meals; folks took my three other children home to their houses and cared for them, schooling them, so that I could stay in the hospital with my son and my husband could work; others gave generously to a gift card for eating out; the volleyball team made a huge poster for him and all came to visit, bringing sweets and treats; friends that I barely knew became close companions as they brought me coffee daily and reached out with prayers and scriptures to encourage us.
Our Church came alongside us too, and that can often be expected, but it was unexpected to be loved and cared for so deeply by the community in our school as well. Everett was in 6th grade at the time, and Mr. Oaks and all the teachers worked tirelessly to help him continue with schooling when he was finally able to do so.
One of our most beloved teachers came on a regular basis to read him to sleep, to help him craft his own book, and to simply give me a break from the room at Children’s Hospital. Another teacher took my youngest home and made her feel safe and loved while I was gone. I am certain that most of the school body was praying for us.
Most people who live through a traumatic event divide life into two times: before, and after, and our family is no exception. There are many things which came “after” that I didn't know so well “before.” We knew that sharing in suffering is a terrible, wonderful gift that brings out the best in those who love Jesus who commanded us to carry each other’s' burdens. This community did that so well. I had a hunch they were like that before, but it is so clear to us now after.
This experience encouraged us to help others in their own suffering. It taught Everett a major life lesson: what it looks like to love others as we would love ourselves. It showed him great compassion, faith, community, and the comfort and power of prayer. Thankfully, he was one of the 1/3 who recover, and has been miraculously healed from his paralysis. He is back to competitive swimming and has worked hard to gain muscle back in his legs.
We often talk about what a gift CDA is for filling our minds with wonderful truths; now we also talk about how those whose minds are filled with those truths are not left unchanged by them, but often put them into practice, giving legs to our beliefs. What an example.
I think others might benefit in the knowledge that there is community to be had, to reach out, to get involved. It doesn't have to be in sharing in others' sufferings, but it can be lifting others up in different ways. Volunteering at the school, participating in class activities, sharing your gifts with the school - these are things that will allow you to put legs to your own belief system, but also bring you into a close community with people who are like-minded and are wonderful people of God!