I celebrate Thanksgiving a little early each year. My personal day of Thanksgiving is October 17th. That may seem odd, but 30 years ago it was the day that changed my life forever.
The day started out with lots of anticipation because it was the first day of pheasant hunting and it was my first time hunting. What thirteen-year-old wouldn’t feel the excitement and joy of hunting with friends on one of those perfect fall days? The sky was clear blue with those high wispy clouds. How can I remember the clouds 30 years later? That’s what I saw when looking up, flat on my back, my femur shattered with a femoral artery bleed. A 12-gauge does tremendous damage from just four feet away. The shot entered the inside of my thigh, the size of an orange, shattered my thigh bone and left an exit wound that extended from high on my hip to almost my knee.
We were over 20 miles from a rural hospital and it was a wild ride in the back of a small hatchback, trying to get to the hospital before I bled dry. I will forever be thankful for our rural hospital that was there when it was needed. Thankful that blood donors had taken the time to donate blood because two nurses stood over my cot and squeezed the bags into veins.
In a roundabout way, this experience left me thankful for our soldiers who give of their time and sometimes their lives. You see, it was a Vietnam Vet, the surgeon, who walked in and knew exactly what to do. His skill was honed in a far off place while serving his country by saving lives. This practice and skill guided his hands as he staunched the blood flow and repaired my artery. He was in the right place with the right skills to save my life because he served. Because he served, I was alive when the chopper landed in Minneapolis. Incidentally, the chopper pilot for the air ambulance also served our country as a pilot.
I lost a leg but gained more than I could ever comprehend. Our family was on the receiving end of the best that America and a rural community has to offer. We had the best healthcare. Our community rallied around us and the crops were harvested by neighbors. Friends far and near reached out with a kind word and many gestures of kindness. Many prayers were offered on our behalf. It was humbling, but amazing to experience.
If we think back in our own lives we find important dates, events and times when we have been on the receiving end of other peoples’ kindness and generosity. It makes me thankful to be alive, marry and have children of my own. It makes me thankful that I am able to hunt, hike and be active outdoors. I am more thankful for my health than ever before.
Maybe we can’t fully appreciate our health until we don’t have it and we probably don’t comprehend the joy of living until we come close to death. Several of our Encore clients have had difficult health issues in the last year and they understand this as well. Veterans of war understand this joy of living after witnessing death and destruction. Life and health are treasures to be cherished.
There are many quiet heroes among us that step in and lend a hand when it is needed. Our nation and rural communities, in particular, are special. Where else do people really know each other and look out for each other? Our family isn’t the only one that has been on the receiving end of such generosity. There are many gestures of generosity that happen every day: Neighbors who come together to harvest the crop, milk the cows, and plant the corn when there is an illness or death. So many times we have witnessed community, churches, and schools pull together when someone is in need. The U.S. is the most giving and philanthropic country in the world and rural America gives the most.
Let’s never be too shy to step up and lend a hand even if we are unsure of ourselves, unsure what needs to be done or what should be said. It doesn’t really matter. What matters most is that we are there for those in need. It’s the American way and something each one of us can be thankful for. My story, and maybe your story, is but one of many and someday it will be forgotten with the passage of time. But those that receive acts of kindness in their time of need will never forget.
Happy Thanksgiving to You and Those You Love.