"The Happiest I've Ever Been in My Life"
I couldn’t believe I was hearing those words. I could imagine a comment like that coming from someone newly married or someone who’s loving a new job or someone whose kids are finally in a good place.
But this was coming from a 21 year-old quadriplegic describing his life to 70 people on the 2nd anniversary of his life-altering accident.
His name is Tom Babb. He has more courage than anyone I know. I’ve seen what raw human perseverance combined with the Holy Spirit looks like in action.
Here’s the backstory: I’ve known Tom since he was 5. He and my son, Neal, played baseball, football, and basketball together. Our families have spent many a day on the ski slopes together. Neal and Tom ran a summer basketball camp for little kids in our hometown.
Then, on Dec 27, 2015, while on Christmas break with his family in Hawaii after his first semester at Kansas University, Tom had a freak accident in the shallow water when a large wave slammed him down on the sand and severed his spinal cord. His life changed in an instant.
Here are just four of many things I’ve learned from Tom:
1. The Beauty of Expanded Vision: Tom said that he had lots of interests and activities before the accident and that the vast majority of them vanished in a moment. Overtime, he had no choice but to look elsewhere for fun, curiosity, challenge, and growth. He now paints https://www.outofhandart.com/ , has grown from an indifferent student to an excellent one, leads a club and raises money to help other disabled students, and wants to provide user experience input to technology companies to improve their products for the disabled. What are you doing to stay curious, growing and challenged these days?
2. The Beauty of Purpose: Somebody in the group asked Tom how he stays so positive and focused. He said that he has long-term goals, mid-term goals and daily goals. He loves reviewing each day to see what he’s accomplished and learned. Do you have goals you’re working toward and reviewing frequently?
3. The Beauty of Community: Tom has experienced God in a way that many of us may never be privileged to do. God is no longer a theological/theoretical concept to him. He has felt the love of God through other human being’s compassion. He also said that he has literally felt the prayers of other people. Are you in a community where your pain and brokenness is known so that you can be supported? Who are you supporting in a practical way? Who are you intentionally praying for?
4. The Beauty of Compassion: I was shocked at the stories of how Tom’s fraternity brothers have been blessed by his situation. They redesigned the fraternity house to accommodate him. They take turns getting him in and out of bed. They bathe him. Feed him. Hang out with him. One brother was so impacted that changed his major from business to physical therapy. 2-3 others have said they never realized how much enjoyment they would get by tending to his basic needs. Their compassion and joy are growing from a most unlikely source. I think this is what Jesus meant when he said “If you want to really live, die to yourself.” My friend Bob Buford calls it “Altruistic egotism.” Who are you sacrificially serving in your life?
Be inspired folks. Heed the lessons of Tom.