August 1, 2008 marked the 19th year of my accident at Laguna Beach. At this time of the year I always seem to reflect on the accident and things I have learned because of it.
In the spring of 1990, approximately 9 months after my accident, Richard Holzapfel, who was the CES coordinator for the Irvine, California Stake asked me to be the keynote speaker at the Seminary Graduation. I immediately turned him down telling him that there was no way I could prepare a talk and deliver it in my condition. I also was very sensitive about how I would be perceived by these young people as I sat before them in my big power wheelchair and on life support. He said that was fine but that he was going to have my name printed on the program as the keynote speaker and whether I showed up or not was up to me.
Well, for the two weeks preceding the graduation I struggled mightily to prepare a little talk. I felt that my brain had atrophied during the many months I had spent in the rehabilitation Hospital. Jo Anne spent hours working with me each day and I am sure there were times she must have thought it was a lost cause. With no computer or voice recognition software at the time, it just seemed impossible to think creatively and prepare my remarks. Finally however, I had a little talk prepared and was absolutely amazed that the young people actually seemed to listen and enjoy what I had to say. It was such a good experience it inspired me to accept many other speaking and teaching opportunities over the years which has contributed to keeping my brain functioning at a fairly high level, despite rumors to the contrary.
President Thomas S. Monson is fond of quoting lines from movies, musicals, poetry, and great literature. He seems to have a photographic memory and doesn't forget anything. In two consecutive general conferences he quoted a line from the Civil War movie, "Shenandoah." He quoted the words spoken by James Stewart, the star of the movie, as follows: "If we don't try, we don't do, and if we don't do why are we here?" Based on my own experience I know how true that philosophy is. Without trying and doing why are we here?
I have great admiration and respect for people who try and do. One of President Kimball's often repeated sayings was, "Do It!" For years I had sitting on my desk a three-dimensional object made out of foam but looking like marble with those two words "Do It" engraved upon on it. It was a very important daily reminder to constantly try and do.
Several years ago one of my observations was given to a young mother in Texas by the name of Jennifer Lynn. I think her visiting teacher or home teacher received the observation from somebody -- you know how these e-mails get around.
As a 30-year-old, happily married mother of four beautiful children, unexpectedly and with no warning, she had a stroke that left her paralyzed from the eyes on down. The prognosis the doctors presented to her and the family was that there was no hope of recovery of any kind. Since then she has developed the ability to use her right arm and one finger a little bit, enough to write on the computer to a certain extent and drive a power wheelchair.
We have been corresponding from time to time and I am always humbled when I receive one of her messages that obviously has been so painstakingly written in her own unique way.
Jennifer could have given in to her situation and quit trying and doing. The opposite however has been the case. In the September 2008 Ensign she had published an article she has written entitled, "Primary Songs Helped Me!" It is a beautifully written and inspiring story from a wonderful young woman who refuses to give up. If you haven't read the article you surely should. I believe it is on page 55 of the magazine. If you read it and feel so inclined, you may want to write Jennifer an e-mail and give her some feedback. I know it would make her day. Her address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think of all the great things that have been accomplished because men and women were willing to try and do, in many cases, the seemingly impossible. The list is endless, of course, and each one of us, with a little pondering, could create our own list of heroes that have been an inspiration to us. We will find some of them in our own families and among our friends. Their examples are priceless.
We read in the Scriptures that nothing is impossible with God. However, we are commanded time after time to knock, ask, seek -- in other words to try -- and only then will He open the door to us and make the impossible possible.
It takes faith to try. This last dispensation came into being because a little boy had faith to try the counsel of James regarding prayer and then to do the will of the Father as it was revealed to him.
No great work was ever accomplished without trying and doing. As James so beautifully taught: "But be ye adoers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a ahearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a bglass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner he of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect alaw of bliberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." [James 1: 22-25]