In the time it took you to read this opening sentence, your life can change. I've learned that this week in a way I never have before. Two of Ethan's friends in Afghanistan were killed last week in separate roadside bombs. One second they are focused on the job at hand, the next they are gone. The lives of their loved ones have changed forever. In a moment.
On the fourth of July my cousin Jared was in a diving accident and broke his neck. He will be spending the next few weeks learning how to lead an active, productive life from a wheelchair. In the time it took for him to dive into that water, his old way of life is gone. The lives of his loved ones have changed forever. In a moment.
I spent a couple of days at the hospital when Jared was in ICU. Now that I'm home, I've had some time to think back on the experience. Sitting in that little waiting room, person after person stopped by to check on Jared's status and offer support to the family. It was a constant flow of friends from the second Jared arrived at the hospital. A Facebook page has been set up and the numbers of supporters go up every day. Comment after comment offers up prayers and encouragement. Our family is just blown away by the depth of influence and friendships my cousin has in the community, and the lengths some people will go to when they want you to know they care.
I've learned two things (among many) in these tough days. One: A person's true character is revealed when they encounter tragedy in their lives. Two: In tragedy we learn the most precious of lessons.
I don't know why Jared has to suffer. The truth is, sometime life just sucks. Bad things happen to good people. That's life, and we all know it. But I can tell you that when people walk out of Jared's hospital room, they find themselves encouraged and full of life. Jared says he has "Found God", and it shows all over his face. You can't deny it.
I think Jared's wife Jenny exemplifies the lessons I'm learning. In the early hours of the accident Jared was telling her how sorry he was. And she responded with something like this: "Jared, it's still you. And it's still me. And it's still our boys. It's still US. You're life is different now, but it's still a good life." Jared and Jenny's lives changed in a moment. And that change is impacting hundreds of people, making us take a good hard look at our own lives and focus on what is really important.
Jared Walker Smith, you are showing us all what it means to be the hero of your own epic story. I love you so much.