It was midnight and he was feeling sorry for himself. Silently, he was asking himself, “Why do I have to be here for so long? Why do I have to be here at all?” This was his third time to be admitted to Shriner’s Hospital and at age 12, he was not enjoying his stay there. Each time before, he had been there for several months while they performed surgery on his bad leg. He knew that it wouldn’t be any different this time.
I know what I’m talking about because I was that little boy who had experienced Polio when I was a child and after years of braces, casts and several surgeries, I found myself in the hospital again! Around midnight, I got out of bed and began to walk around the halls of that hospital feeling sorry for myself. Of course, I didn’t understand. I was too young to realize that there was a big picture and that this was all for my good! My parents had to do all that grown up stuff. I only knew that I wanted to go home.
So I walked. I had a brother that had been born while I was a patient there and my parents brought him to the window outside so that I could see him. I could have visitors on Sunday only and it was limited to parents only back then. I didn’t like any of it at that moment.
So I walked. The hospital staff had done their best to make us all feel as comfortable as possible. They knew that I played the piano, so they actually put one in my room! They played games with us; they did what they could, but that night none of that mattered because I felt sorry for ME!
So, I walked. I cried real tears of self-pity. Some would say that those feelings were justified, but I have learned since then that self-pity is a dangerous emotion to entertain. The more you feel bad for yourself, the more ways you find to justify those feelings. The more that you justify your feelings, the more pity you have on yourself. Where does it end?
I kept walking. I kept crying. I walked out of the ‘big boys ward’ where my room was located and I walked past the ‘little boys ward’. The more I walked, the more I cried. The more I cried, the worse I felt. I walked past the ‘big girls ward’ until I found myself standing in the doorway of the ‘little girls ward.’ Then I heard it.
Then it happened!
I heard a little girl crying. It was easy to tell that she was in pain. 50 years have passed since that night, and all I have to do is think about it for just a moment and I can still hear her cries. She complained that her feet were hurting. Attendants were trying to help her, but it was a slow process. I don’t remember how long I was there, but eventually I inquired as to what was happening. I didn’t realize it, but my entire life was about to change.
They took the time to explain to me that this little girl, not even in her teens yet, was recovering from surgery the day before where both of her legs had been amputated. She was experiencing ‘phantom pain’; her feet were gone, but the nerve endings were still sending the message to her brain that those feet were hurting. I’m no doctor and I don’t understand how it all works, but the memory of that night will forever live in my mind! Something happened to me. I stopped crying as I began to feel for that little girl. The self-pity that had engulfed me began to disappear as I came to understand that her condition was far worse than mine.
As time wore on, I began to realize that my entire mindset was changed that night and I slowly began to develop an ‘attitude of gratitude’. I was too young then to realize the full impact that that experience would have on my life, but I understand now that it doesn’t matter how bad your situation, there is somebody who is experiencing something that is worse. If you have health issues, visit your local hospital for a couple of hours and you’ll see what I’m talking about. If you are experiencing financial problems (and who isn’t) visit the employment agencies in your town and talk to the people there or visit the area in your town where the homeless live on the streets and it’s likely that your attitude will change. It makes no difference whether your problems are physical, emotional, financial, mental, spiritual or any other type, there is someone who is in worse shape than you are.
Each of us has a choice to make. Not one of us can escape problems of some kind on a daily basis. Every day we have to choose whether we will dwell on the problems and be negative all day long or find a silver lining, accentuate the positive (it’s there if we look for it) and come up with a solution for the problems. It is an on-going battle and it takes place between our ears.
If you develop a positive attitude, good things will come to you. If you consistently dwell on the negative, good things will run from you. It has been called the law of attraction and many other things, but it is really common sense: you don’t like to be around negative people for very long and neither do I! So, the answer is simple – be positive, excited and cheerful no matter how bad you feel. It’s an art. Work at it. Develop it until it becomes a habit. You and your ministry, your business, your family and anyone else who comes in contact with you will benefit greatly.