When I anticipated my first week of college, I expected it to be challenging. I had struggled with my grades in high school and knew that college level academics were a whole new ball game. I knew that if I was going to be successful, I would have to work hard, be well disciplined, and focus. I was right. What I did not foresee were the many other things that were difficult as well.
I was adjusting to living on my own for the first time, several hundred miles away from family and other important people in my life. I learned that, when it snows, wheelchairs without traction lead to frustration and frozen fingers. I had to figure out how to navigate the steep hills of campus if I wanted to go in the right direction. I was up to my eyeballs in aggravation that week but remember it well for a far different reason. During my first week of classes, I met one of my closest friends.
Dale was a year ahead of me in school. A business and physical education major, he planned to be a coach. He would go on to mentor many students in his career, but he helped me to learn one of the life’s most powerful lessons.
Sometimes it is necessary to laugh at yourself.
Fast forward a little more than a year. We were both taking summer classes and involved with the Baptist Student Union on campus. Two of the guys in the group invited us and several others over for spaghetti. We hit a snag. Their basement apartment was down a narrow flight of stairs. I was determined to get there myself.
I tried my best to walk down the one flight on my canes, but the angle was sharp and my progress was slow. I was becoming increasingly agitated.
Dale watched me for several minutes and then said: “I’m hungry.”
He put me back in my chair, and we moved on to plan “B.” After recruiting four of the biggest guys we knew, he asked them to help carry me and my wheelchair down to the appropriate apartment. The process was about to begin when several young kids who lived in the complex approached us.
“What is wrong with her? Why is she in a wheelchair?
I was about to respond when Dale interrupted. Without skipping a beat, he looked them in the eye and quite seriously said:
“She ate too much sugared cereal as a child.”
Several friends laughed out loud. The kids disappeared quickly. And I got the point. Sometimes you have to let go of frustration and simply have fun.
I smile when I think about the kids from that summer evening so long ago.
For just a moment, they might have equated unflavored oatmeal with their ability to run free.