Learning through Adversity

College is a great time for self-discovery with most students getting their first taste of freedom as they live on their own. There is so much opportunity to learn, both in and outside the classroom. While I would not call any of it easy, I would say most of those learning experiences are positive. Based on my own experience, however, the times of greatest learning and self-discovery come from adversity. You just have to be open to the opportunity.

Seven years ago, I thought I had everything pretty well figured out. I was married with two great children, a job I loved, a good church home, and feeling comfortable with the life I had. Then, out of the blue, I had a massive stroke and would spend the next 43 days in the hospital undergoing extensive rehabilitation. Some of the learning I had to do was VERY tangible. I had to learn to walk again, speak again, and work to regain use of the left side of my body. (Thank goodness I was right-handed!). But the most important learning I had to do shook some of the foundations of what I thought I had figured out long ago. While some of these things may seem specific to my experience, I think they are important for all of us to remember as we journey through life.

There are no “little” things.

One of the hardest lessons to learn early on in my recovery was to celebrate every minor improvement that came along. Each small step was a building block to something that might become a major breakthrough down the road. Looking at it in a broader view, I realized that things we might consider “little” were actually big things to those around me. Something as simple as saying “thank you” to a therapist or nurse’s aide or remembering someone’s name (among the dozens of people who were in and out of our room) made a major impact.

You never know when someone is watching.

Throughout my rehab experience, it was easy to operate in a vacuum and focus only on myself and what I was going through. But slowly, I began to realize that other patients were watching me and taking notice of not only how I treated those helping me, but also how I approached my rehab itself. Now I certainly do not think of myself as a role model and I do not really want the pressure that goes with that responsibility. Whether we like the idea or not, people do watch what you do and how you act. Seize that opportunity and know that you have the power to be a positive influence in so many lives, even if you do not get the chance to see that impact firsthand.

People want to see you succeed.

There were so many people who worked with me throughout the process, and I was always amazed by how much joy they showed whenever I showed improvement. In addition to the love and support of my family, the staff seemed truly invested in me and in helping me reach my goals. It is the same way here at UMHB. People genuinely want to see you succeed and will do whatever they can to help you. Do not be afraid to ask or allow others to assist you, whether it is taking your first step after two weeks of rehab, helping you study for a test, or just finding out which building your next class is in. You do not have to do it by yourself. That leads right into the final lesson I learned…

You are never alone.

In my case, this was literally true. My wife and parents worked it out where someone was with me every day I was in the hospital (even those days when I wanted to be alone). However, it was also true on another level and the same holds for you. God was with me every step of the way, watching over me, carrying me when I needed it, and giving me strength in ways I had not before realized he could. Once again, I just needed to let myself ask and allow him to help me. As the days went by, I also saw changes in my prayer life. I went from asking for things for myself to praising God for what I had and asking for strength for all of those around me. As much as I would like to think I would have still learned to do that without what I went through, I am not entirely sure I would have.

UMHB is the university of choice for Christian higher education in the Southwest. If you are looking for a place to receive an education for life and an experience of a lifetime, UMHB would be a great fit for you! Check out our website for more information, or stop by any time for a campus visit to learn more!