We sat in the upper level of Shriners Hospital waiting our turn to visit with the orthotics department. From a distance, I saw Ethan and Mitch whispering in the corner of a vast open space designed to let children play. I could tell by the looks on their faces these young boys were conspiring to have fun. A few moments later I saw Ethan sit on a scooter and Mitch started pushing him with his electric chair. They both laughed and laughed as they scurried about the hardwood floor, sometimes at exhilarating speeds.
Along the wall of this open corridor, I saw a chalkboard where a young child wrote, “I’m sad.” I’ll post that photo in another story about suffering. As I read that simple phrase, clearly written by young hands, I began to cry for that mystery child. My heart broke and I wished I could share a portion of my own health and give it to others in need, including my son. I would have given my life to save my son.
As I turned attention back Mitch and Ethan, my eyes began to dry and my heart was filled with gratitude. Though life can seem cruel at times, I saw evidence of heaven’s hand right before me. My eyes began to see the tender mercy these two boys were to each other. In that moment, I knew that while God wouldn’t remove Mitchell’s hardship, He sent Ethan to help ease the way.
Mitch was about to endure a great inconvenience. Within a few hours, he would have both legs placed in cast for a few weeks. These casts were shaped in such a way to stretch his heel cords – which stretching would help keep him walking a little longer. However, just a few short months from this photo Mitch would go into catastrophic heart failure – and all that we tried to do to keep him healthy would become painfully irrelevant.
Ethan, knowing his younger brother’s options in life were limited, knew just how to serve him. He always allowed Mitch to wrestle him to the ground and let him win, even though Ethan was much stronger than his younger brother. He helped Mitch build blanket forts when his arms were weak. Sometimes Mitch would sit in the middle of the room with a smile as Ethan built a big pillowy, blankety fort around him. Mitchell’s smile would always grow in proportion to the size of the fort. Though life was difficult, it was also glorious.
Ethan found ways to serve Mitch so he could feel like a healthy child. Ironically, by allowing his older brother to serve him, Mitch was serving Ethan at the same time. When I think back on my own life, not once have I served someone and regretted the decision. In fact, I have always felt more blessed than the person I was trying to serve. Heaven’s paradoxes are as sweet as they are beautiful.
So, when I seem to struggle or get lost and can’t find my way, I stop to catch my breath … then find someone I can serve that day. It doesn’t take much to turn a bad day around – if I can help someone in need and my heart goes from lost, to suddenly found.
That’s the flipside of service: by allowing people to serve us, we are also serving them. The very act of giving can change or heal a heart … times ten.