Yesterday morning at 4:45am Harley and I went out for our usual morning walk. Generally we head out of the apartment complex, across the street to Mom and Pops where Harley likes to explore the gazebos and benches then down the street to the park and back. It's pretty dark out there- we don't have a lot of street lights- so I bring a flashlight for poop patrol (one of the lesser delights of puppy adoption) and except for that we keep it off and just enjoy the solitude together. So we went our usual route and Harley did her business over between the east side gazebo and benches I was telling her to wait while I did my job. Right about that time a homeless man sat up on one of the benches. I don't know which of the three of us was more startled! We must have awoken him when I started talking to Harley and he sat straight up- startling the daylights out of her. I on the other hand was startled because in two years I have only seen one homeless person out here. I know they are here, but they are just not as pervasive as they were in the city. I spent the whole day thinking back to this poor man who not only had to sleep on a bench that night but also got scared to death by me and my little dog in the wee hours of the morning.
This morning-after our walk- I flipped on my DVR and an episode of Extreme Makeover Home Edition had taped in the middle of the night. I have it set for "new only" but for whatever reason- this one didn't say "repeat" so even though it was an episode from 2005, it taped anyway. This two hour show was about the Anderson Family.
In March 2000, Rodney Anderson of South Central Los Angeles was on his way to the NBA and a degree in social work, thanks to a full basketball scholarship from California State University at Fullerton (CSUF). On a rare day off from practice, he came home to have dinner with his family. Afterwards, he went for a walk -- the last time he would do so. Gang members approached Rodney and shot him in the back, thinking he was a rival gang member, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down, with little movement in his arms.
With assistance from the state of California and former assemblyman Carl Washington, a contractor was hired to begin work on the Anderson home to make it wheelchair-accessible for Rodney. But the contractor never returned to complete the job and left gaping holes where there should have been walls, leaving the house exposed to the elements and making it almost completely uninhabitable.
Rodney is an honor student at CSUF and attends classes and basketball games in a wheelchair. While Rodney and his fiancee Monique, along with his parents, sister Glenda and her three children, Mellone, 19, Louis, 16 and 12-year-old Cordney, went on vacation to the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, CSUF held a special campus event where Rodney's basketball number was retired.
I have to say- I watched this two hours with a lump in my throat and just cried and cried at different points. These folks really just touched my heart.
These two things together make me wonder what in the world I have to complain about. I have a safe home in a safe town. I have food on the table. I have a family that I love and who loves me. Yes I (and maybe now Jim but that's another story for another blog) have health issues but I am not in a wheelchair- and though we have thought about it a time or twelve I haven't even progressed to a cane as of yet. Yes, I have pain every day- but I am managing that pain and more importantly- I can feel that pain. It is kind of odd to feel good about being able being able to feel pain- but when you see someone who was so athletically talented (which I have NEVER been)and is now a quadraplegic- you have to give thanks that you can feel your pain.
Another part of this reminder is that we can find strength and resiliance when we really need it. I think I am pretty darned strong. I handle most everything thrown at me with only a brief stop for a tantrum and then go with it. When I think about the man in the park and the young man in the wheelchair I have to think that THAT is strength at a very high level. I can only hope that if I were to face that kind of adversity (and knock wood I never will) that I would have the fortitude to go on. I am so grateful for the life that I have. The little things and the big things that I have been given make my life pretty darned good and the adversity is just another challenge to be overcome.