Friday, April 26, 2013

Spain Park High School

There are times when I suddenly realize just how much I love my life, and one of those times was last week.  The administration of Spain Park High School in Birmingham, Alabama invited me to speak to their faculty and student body, so I packed up my truck and made the five hour trek the day before.  I did the same thing for Hoover High School in Birmingham last year, and it only seemed fair to meet with Hoover’s rival, the Spain Park Jaguars, as well.  I’m glad I did.

I’m from Mississippi, and our natural rival is Alabama.  I pull for the Golden Eagles and the Running Rebels at every turn, but life in ‘Bama centers around the Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers.  And while this football and basketball rivalry is fierce, it ends on the field.  When it comes to hospitality, the people of Alabama can’t be beat.

When I arrived last Thursday, I spent an hour with the faculty first thing in the morning, and they were as generous of spirit as anybody could be.  I gave my testimony, and the thing that the teachers focused on most was forgiveness.

“Dwight, how were able to forgive Posey, the drunk driver who severed my spine, I so quickly?” asked one teacher.  “I don’t think I could have done it.”

My answer was simple.  “After the accident, I needed to focus on me, on my own recovery and my own health.  If I focused on revenge and on Posey, I probably wouldn’t be here. Forgiveness is freedom.” I emphasized every day and every second counting for something.

As wonderful as the faculty was, the kids were even better.  They were more interested in justice and jail time for Posey than forgiveness, but they peppered me with questions at each session.  I spoke to each class in turn from the ninth graders to the seniors, and each class was more receptive and attentive than the one before.  They quickly got over any shyness and asked honest, direct questions. 

“Can you drive?”  Yes.  (I’ m totally independent.)
“How can you drive in a wheelchair?”  (Not as hard as you’d think. I drive with my hands)
 “Do you enjoy taking care of your daughter Brailey?”  (Yes.  It’s my favorite job.)
 “Do you ever tip over in the wheelchair?”  (Hmm.  A few times, but I have also rolled uncontrollably down a hill and smashed into a car. Lol.)
"Why are you so full of joy?" (Because I'm still here!)

They heard about my surgeries.  They learned about my grueling rehab. And most importantly, they saw first-hand what one self-indulgent, thoughtless act could do to another human being.  Did they really want that on their conscience?  I think they all asked themselves that question, and I think they knew the answer.
Actions have consequences, and while I want kids to be kids and test themselves in every reasonable way, I don’t want them drinking and driving or making any choices they will later on regret.  Nobody wins, and they saw that first hand.  I didn’t preach or lecture.  In fact, I laughed a lot.  But the message was clear all the same, and they got it.  Drinking and driving is no laughing matter, and as prom night nears for Spain High, I think many of them will keep that message in mind.  I hope so.

I take off my hat to faculty and students of Spain High.  They were wonderful hosts, generous listeners, and more than friendly to their Mississippi neighbor.

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