Attending a professional organization meeting last Wednesday with my husband was a real treat for me. He always comes home after hearing the monthly speaker and is re-energized, re-focused and re-born at times. To my delight, the closed group offered to allow spouses to join the December gathering and hear their national organization’s Speaker-of-the-Year deliver his presentation. But as I was greeted by the members and took my seat that morning, I read the embossed message on the leather bound journal presented to everyone by the speaker. It read, “What more can I do?”
In this time of over-scheduled lives filled with work, family, children’s activities, homework, church obligations, the constant media feed and that Christmas Elf on the Shelf, I personally cannot fit another thing in. What more can I do? I’m not sure I can do any more.
But then John O’Leary took me through a journey. His unbelievable journey.
John was burned at the age of nine over 100% of his body, and was not supposed to live through the first night. He endured months in the hospital, 24 surgeries and lost all of his fingers to amputation. He was temporarily blinded by his burned, swollen eyes, had a tracheotomy to help his injured lungs receive oxygen, and his arms and legs were strapped down to the bed so that his body wouldn’t curl up into a fetal position and surrender to death.
John spoke about the people who were there – those who helped him survive. There were several of the best burn clinic doctors in St. Louis – specialists in their craft and skill. But there were others. A lonesome CNA named “Nurse Roy” who would come in daily and announce to him in a loud booming voice, “Boy, you’re going to walk again” and would pick him up, legs dangling and feet barely touching the floor so John would feel the sensation of walking, as he moved him painfully to the dreaded wound re-dressing table. And there was a Hall of Fame baseball announcer who would come into his room to whisper into his ear, “kid, do you hear me? Hey kid… you’re going to live”, only to breakdown sobbing as he left the room. Yet, he returned daily to deliver those words into John’s ear, “hey kid… you’re going to live”.
And with all the agony that John O’Leary went through and the gut-wrenching details he could have expanded upon, I was surprised that his presentation was not one of a young boy’s pain and his overcoming adversity as you see daily on an ESPN Special or 60 Minutes. Strangely, his presentation was about me. He sprinkled in, ever so cleverly, the trials of his accident and his scars that are plainly visible today. But he turned spotlight on each of us in the room, and how we all have a story (or two) that shape us. Who we are. What scars do we endure. And from these experiences, how can we become a victor instead of a victim?
What more can I do?
One of the many exercises we did was to think of something you would like to do in your life that would make a difference – and we had to think BIG. One gentleman said that he would like to end human trafficking. John asked if he thought he could do it, to which the gentleman said, “no, of course not”. But that was not the right answer.
As we were lead over the next few exchanges, we realized that he could do something. He could do more. He could make some phone calls to the local organization that is creating the awareness of the issue. He can start putting his volunteer time, professional talent and treasure into the cause. He can branch off and create another awareness group in the neighboring city. And at the end of the exchanges between John and this man, we all in the room knew that we had witnessed something. He might not end human trafficking, but he was going to make a big dent in it, and fill that want and need to help in his soul.
What more can I do?
If we are really honest with ourselves, we can identify a cause, a plight, a need. We can take a step into the direction of being a victor. We can do more.