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And Finally: Being Grateful

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News November 2015

Getting ready for the holidays

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This month usually marks the beginning of the holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving. We used to travel back to our family nests, spend the long weekend celebrating with family and friends, and feast on turkey, stuffing, potatoes and the usual local fixings. For the most part, I think nowadays Thanksgiving has become a race for the stores to see who is going to open first on Black Friday. That race has now gotten so competitive that some stores no longer close on Thanksgiving Day. Lines outside of Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart can begin to form as early as the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The holiday has become for some people a quick dinner and a race to their favorite store or mall.

A Mountain Of Things

I was brought to life one year when my wife and I went to Indiana to spend Thanksgiving with my family. We stayed downtown, and my wife almost on instinct, woke up early on Friday and headed out anticipating the usual crowds and long lines. Imagine my surprise when she returned 30 minutes later with a strange look on her face saying that not a single store was open. When I inquired what we were going to do, she replied, “I guess we’ll spend more time with your family since we’re here.” Wow, what a concept. The missing deals that were no longer available really weren’t worth leaving the party with family, many of whom we don’t see that often. We even sat around the living room and began discussing in earnest the things we were grateful for. I was really astounded how difficult it was at first for me to talk. But once I really thought about it, I have a mountain of things to be grateful for.

A New Meaning

First, I want to say how grateful I am for the fact that there are veterans’ hospitals. I’m grateful there are doctors who are willing to spend time away from their own hospitals, and drive sometimes almost an hour to take care of the veterans seeking assistance with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). I’m grateful for the outstanding nurses who have chosen to spend part of their careers at the VA. Most of all, I am grateful for the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and the monitoring, evaluating and advocating it does on a daily basis for me and all veterans.
Also, I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend school and learn a new career. Thanks to the Swim with Mike Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund, I’m not just going to school, but the classes are on a beautiful campus and the students are more than helpful. The subject matter is also enlightening and allowing me to really help other veterans who are returning battle ridden and scarred, inside and out. This has given my life a meaning it didn’t have before my paralysis.

Big Hearts

Furthermore, I have a group of friends within PVA that have some of the biggest hearts I’ve ever met. I watch these men and women constantly bond with each other, visit with each other in the hospitals, laugh and joke when things are great, and cry with you when things are not. As they push their wheelchairs through the VA hospital, I can see all they mean to the well-being of the veterans in the hospital, and yet, are also so busy on the outside raising money and awareness on the plight of veterans. There are times when I fail to realize that my personal well-being is tied directly to the efforts of these other paralyzed veterans, and they too give me lots of reasons to be constantly grateful.

A Lucky Man

Then, there’s my family. My mother, father, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins have all been there for me one way or another. They’ve helped make this experience not just bearable, but fruitful. Along with my family, there’s my wife who has never left my side since my injury. She has spent so much time sitting beside me holding my hand, bringing me home-cooked food and visiting with me while I was lying in a hospital bed when she could have been doing so many other things. There’s no way I could have made it this far without her, and for that I’m forever grateful. You know, as I look back at this list a huge notion just blows over me. To paraphrase New York Yankees and Baseball Hall of Fame legend Lou Gehrig, it may be easy to say that I’ve gotten a bad break in life, but when I really think about it, I believe I truly am one of the luckiest men around.  Now, that’s something to be grateful for. I think I’ll have a second plate of turkey this year.

Scoba Rhodes is a U.S. Navy veteran and author of  Rules of Engagement: A Self-Help Guide for Those Overcoming Major Personal Trauma.

 

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And Finally: Being Grateful

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