Give Thanks in All Circumstances. My Accidental Epiphany.

Into each life come epiphanies, insights born of a new thought, or the combination of ideas hitherto unconnected, or encounters with a person whose very life illuminates a previously misunderstood truth, or an experience, so radical it takes you to a higher plane.

Turns out, for me to understand the giving of thanks in all circumstances, required hitting the ground with my face at 65 MPH.

It was 1967. I was nineteen years old. I was in college on a full scholarship, secured through my participation in a performing arts group, which one particular night meant a concert at Alliance Redwoods Camp on the Russian River.

The scheduled program included a song that referenced the giving of thanks and Ray, our leader, asked me to follow it with a few words on the subject. I remember, as if it was yesterday, asking Ray to find somebody else. The next week was finals week. I needed to study. The last place I wanted to be was in front of a bunch of high school kids and the last thing I wanted to do was give thanks.“It’s finals week…I’ve got nothing to be thankful for.”  I don’t recall his reaction and I don’t recall whether I said anything that night or not.

Back in San Francisco the next day I was in my room studying, when out of town friends called and announced they were in S.F. Would I join them for lunch?  Evidently the ingrate on full scholarship who lacked the will to sing, though paid to do so, or to give thanks had plenty of time to eat and party with old friends.

I was currently without wheels, having just sold my motorcycle, so I walked down the hall and asked Ted if I could borrow it back.

Moments later I zipped up my green quilted jacket, mounted the bike and headed out on Interstate 280 towards S.F. Just ahead I saw a car moving erratically from lane to lane at 70 MPH, and as I pulled alongside I saw the back window rolled down and two young children crying and screaming for help. “Daddy is drunk.”

Traveling at 70 with your eyes fixed on a car to your left means you aren’t watching the road ahead. Not good as I was to discover, because the four lanes were about to merge to three and the lane I was in was an “exit-only lane”  leading into a 15 MPH exit ramp, which then turned left onto an overpass passing over the three lanes below.

What happened next is a blur.

I knew I couldn’t make the curve at 70.  To not make it meant hitting the overpass rail and probably dropping onto the three-lane highway below. Straight ahead I saw a gravel path and my only way out. I glanced at the speedometer, 65MPH. I jumped the curve. The bike was going down. I tried to roll. I vaguely recall impact. I did roll and the puffy green jacket cushioned the blow to the body. But my helmetless face hit the ground straight on.

I jumped up, amazed that my body seemed uninjured. The bike was pretty mangled up and the engine was still running. I thought, “Ted’s gonna be pissed.”

I could not feel my face, but in the bike’s mirror I saw a lacerated, swollen, ripped up, bleeding blob of flesh. Though energized by adrenaline, I also felt ready to pass out.

I walked back to the highway, and stood between the exit ramp and the three lanes and waved for help. Car after car slowed, looked at me and kept going. I remembered the story of the Good Samaritan. Will anybody stop?

Finally an African American man driving a Cadillac pulled over. He got out, looked at my face, asked what happened and said I was in shock. He told me I needed to lay down so he could get me to the hospital. He opened his trunk, pulled out a blanket and towel and told me to lay down in the back seat of his car.

Funny how in times of crisis little details jump out at you. Did I mention his car had a white leather interior? Did I mention that he announced he was a physician? Did I mention he knew, given my injury, which hospital to take me to and exactly how to get there?

He ushered me into the emergency room and I extended the bloody towel to my side, laughed, made like a wounded, bloodied bull-fighter and said, “here bully, bully.”

Ignoring me, my guardian angel talked to a nurse who swung immediately into action.

Literally in minutes the painstaking work of pulling gravel out of my face and inside my mouth began.

Later I would learn that inside my mouth the gravel had ripped the skin below my bottom teeth away from my jawbone on both sides of my mouth.  There was a tiny extra hole in my nose, and my chin and the area above my upper lip were ripped to shreds. My face was badly swollen, my eyes closed to slits and blackened.

I was rolled into an operating room where it seems like I got a dozen shots of local anesthetic before the stitching began. I could watch, though by now I had mellowed into a drowsy haze.

As I watched the Doctor stitch I had a mental image of a muddy rice paddy in Viet Nam. I pictured a soldier with wounds worse than mine lying there unattended by medics. I imagined it was one of my High School friends, for many in my High School senior class were in Viet Nam, and I wept. I wept at their plight and my ingratitude.

Just then the surgeon broke the silence. “No helmet? 65 Miles per hour?”

“Yes.”

“Young man, you’ve got a lot to be thankful for.”

I wish it did not take painful experiences to teach me life’s important lessons. I wish I wasn’t in the slow group. But in that moment, even I knew I would never ever gain be guilty of thanklessness.

I now understood these ancient words of wisdom. “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

PS-It took months to heal.I still have a jagged inner mouth where the flesh reattached to the jaw via stitches.Look close and you can see the healed hole in the nose and you can see scars above my upper lip.

I never got the name of the Good Samaritan and never saw or heard from him again.

I don’t know what happened to the little kids in the back seat of the erratically driven car.

I only know I will never ever again say, I’ve got nothing to be thankful for.

Blessings on your day. With love from me to you!

 

Posted in Staublog in November 23, 2011 by | 8 Comments »

8 Responses to Give Thanks in All Circumstances. My Accidental Epiphany.

  1. ST112311 | Dick Staub on November 23, 2011 at 10:22 am

    […] Turns out, for me to understand the giving of thanks in all circumstances, required hitting the ground with my face at 65 MPH. Read More. […]

  2. Michael on November 23, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Wow, I picture Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction as the angel in the story if you were wondering.

  3. Dick Staub on November 23, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Nice casting.

  4. Marty on November 23, 2011 at 11:25 am

    You’ve always said you had a face for radio. Now I know why.

  5. Amy on November 23, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Each one of us has so much to be thankful for! Thank you for sharing your story again, Pastor. God is so good and so faithful! Love to you and your family this merry season!

  6. chris elms on November 23, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    This could be related to a certain shoulder a certain friend didn’t get
    to help as much as he wished. And having friends who don’t understand
    their mission is to do exactly as we wish is certainly one of life’s great miracles for which
    to be thankful.

  7. Stephen on November 30, 2011 at 11:01 am

    That story was very interesting to me. I had a similar occurence when I crashed into the back of a stalled semi nearly two years ago. Still have some dental work left to be done before its back to normal. But I don’t think I’ll ever again be “normal” as for how I view life. That whole incident had a profound affect on me, how I see God’s ability to use seeming tragedy for good. What we would never ask for is often exactly what we need!

  8. Dick Staub on November 30, 2011 at 11:04 am

    “What we would never ask for is often exactly what we need!” I like that a lot!

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