It’s A Matter of Perspective

“I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.” Helen Keller

This has always been one of my favorite quotes, but until recently I didn’t know Helen Keller was responsible for it.

Helen Keller. Who for all but the first few years of her life was blind, deaf, and almost mute because of these other disabilities. But look at what she was able to accomplish, and in an era of very limited medical advances. And she accomplished it in spite of those disabilities, which I daresay would keep most of us from doing anything but feeling sorry for ourselves and giving up on life.

Or look at one of my very favorite role models, Joni Eareckson Tada, who at the age of 19 dived into the water for a quick swim as a healthy, robust teenaged girl, and emerged a quadriplegic, unable to move her arms and legs. She thought her life was over, and wanted to do nothing but die. But the Lord had other plans for this amazing young woman who has become a leading role model for the disabled community, who founded an international organization for the disabled, who has authored a number of books (and I’ve read every one of them), who is an accomplished artist, a cancer survivor, and hosts a weekly radio show, many times with her husband Ken Tada. She has turned a debilitating accident into a testimony of her faith and the triumph of the human spirit by refusing to give in to self-pity and depression. Please take the time to read at least one of her books and gain a new sense of strength and encouragement.

We all face trials in our lives, although most of us not to the degree of Helen Keller or Joni. Our trials are nevertheless real and devastating to us, but we need to stop in the midst of them and see them in a new perspective. It’s not always an easy thing to do, but look at these examples of real people going through real challenges. And look at the comparisons. Several of these people I know, and know quite well. And their strength and attitudes amaze me.

A mother’s son made a big mistake and ended up going to prison for two years for drug charges. She blamed herself at times for not being a good enough mother (which wasn’t true!), and was devastated at what had happened, wondering how he’d ever get his life back together, and worrying that he’d made mistakes that he could never overcome. Then she read about another mother’s son who was imprisoned for life for killing a man who was abusing his stepchildren. How did that mother feel, knowing her only child would never be a free man again; knowing he’d never be present for family celebrations, for his stepchildren’s birthdays or graduations. That she’d never be able to really hug him again, or do the little things for her son that a mother wants to do.

Perspectives. Bad vs.Worst. And the son who served those two years has made an amazing story and example out of his life.

A couple riding a motorcycle on a beautiful Saturday afternoon was struck by a lumber truck on a winding mountain road several years ago. The husband sustained two broken legs and various other serious injuries; the wife ended up with a crushed pelvis which had to be put back together with wires, plates, screws, and even chains in order for her to walk again. “It could have been so much worse;” she says. “We could have been declared brain dead, or left in a vegetative state for years. We’re alive and we’re together. We’re extremely fortunate and have no ill feelings toward the driver. It was an accident.” And I had been upset because of a long-lasting case of whiplash after I’d been rear-ended….

Perspectives. And God’s mercy and protection.

George was distraught and even embarrassed because his son dropped out of school and took a series of low paying jobs until he decided what he really wanted to do, and ended up as a server at a local restaurant. He made very good tips and was quite happy with his life. George was so envious because his friend Kenneth’s son made Deans List in college, went on to get his Masters, and was getting ready to start a six-figure job. He wished his son could be more like Kenneth’s. Then Kenneth’s son was killed in a car accident the night he graduated. Suddenly George realized he had so much more to be grateful for than Kenneth.

Perspectives. Good jobs and college degrees aren’t always the most important things in life.

Now for a personal confession. I recently broke my right wrist, which required either an immobile cast above my elbow for four weeks or surgery to repair it. I opted for the surgery, of course, and for two weeks I’ve still had trouble using that arm, and of course, I’m right handed. I faced several challenges bathing without getting the dressings wet, putting my contacts in, doing my hair, even not being able to wear certain blouses because I couldn’t get the sleeve over the bandages. Yes, I complained, and started feeling sorry for myself.

Then a 29 year old friend of our daughter and son-in-law was in a motorcycle accident over the weekend. Another biker crossed into his lane and clipped his foot. After two surgeries to try and save his foot, he had to make the difficult choice to have part of his leg amputated below the knee. He will be fitted with a prosthesis as soon as he is healed enough, and as he said, “I’ll be able to do everything I used to do as soon as I get it, and get used to it.” Including surfing, and most likely being back on his motorcycle.

Perspectives. All the complaining I did. How fortunate I am. And I think of him every time I start to complain, and I immediately thank the Lord for my minor and short-lived inconvenience. And I pray for that young man.

What perspectives do you need to change in your thinking, and in your life? We all have things that bother us, and make us think we have things so bad. We all need to bear in mind that our trials are nothing compared to others around us.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

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