...and it takes you somewhere you could have never dreamed it would, and if you are lucky you realize in the midst of the journey; rather than in retrospect.
When tragedy strikes, we are left with seemingly very few options, and in many cases even less hope. The tragedy could be something as obvious as Newtown, or as seemingly obscure as a two year old boy playing in his own "safe" backyard.
I am not going to compete with the numerous, much more talented people who have written about Newtown, as my words would only echo what some have already written, and needlessly upset anyone who has a different view than mine in the wake of something so inexplicable.
Instead, I am going to focus on Tripp Halstead (keep up on his latest news on Facebook), a young man whose struggle and fight have impacted me in ways I could never have foreseen; all from a child and family I do not know.
Here is his mother's account of what happened in her own words from Facebook:
"...He was playing on the playground at daycare and a huge limb fell out of a very high tree. It fell on his head and crushed his skull into many pieces. They took him to Winder-Barrow hospital and then flew him to Egleston Childrens hospital in Atlanta. As Bill and I were driving to meet him in Atlanta, I don't think we spoke 10 words to each other. We were scared and we just prayed. We honestly didn't know how bad it was. As soon as we got there, they let us see him. He looked perfect. No blood, no cuts, he looked so peaceful. Then the Dr started telling us how bad it was, and it took me some time to realize they were saying he could die. It was a slice to my heart and soul. So the next few hours after that were a total blur. When I dropped my happy, perfect boy off at daycare that morning, it might of been the last time I saw his smile or his eyes open or him awake. I will never take another day with my baby for granted. So he survived surgery, then the next 24 hours and made it til Friday. Then he took a turn for the worst and they told us to say our goodbyes. That was the worst day of my life. To think he had survived this and then given no hope. But Tripp proved them wrong, he is a fighter and he pulled through and we have never looked back. He is in rehab now and even though he is making tiny babysteps, he is moving forward. I cherish every moment with him. He is my whole world and I want him to know how much he is loved. I didn't want this post to be all sad, I wanted everyone to know how important every single day is with your loved ones, hug them, kiss them, let them know how special they are to you. Even if Tripp hadn't pulled through, I can honestly say there wasn't one single day of his life that he wasn't hugged on, kissed on and told "I love you". He is a very special boy and thank you all for loving him too."
As a father, I am without words and consumed with emotions that cannot come close to the emotions his parents and grandparents now know all too well. I, for one, do not look at my son or wife the same way, and I have never met Tripp or anyone from his family.
It is easy to get locked in with blinders and buy into the idea that things are not like they used to be, and a true sense of community and belonging have been thrown out with yesterday's trash. If we all did a better job of paying attention to what is around us, rather than what Fox, CNN, MSNBC, etc., have to say, perhaps it would not take tragic events to remind just how good we all really can be.
For starters, Tripp has more than 250,000 people who have liked his page on Facebook and have chosen to follow him on this journey. I would say that the number that actually know him is small relative to the number that follow him. That said, it only takes a moment of reading comments from these followers to understand that all of them are fully invested in his journey. They are heartbroken with each excruciating setback, and elated by each step forward no matter how big or small.
The unashamadely raw nature with which his parents and grandparents share as they post is often very difficult to read, but impossible not to anxiously anticipate the next post. The grace that they have had while negotiating through very emotionally charged waters shows just how strong the human spirit is even when we think that next straw is just too much.
There have been many words of prayer by those who believe in the power of prayer, and still many other thoughts and words of support or concern by those who choose to pray anonymously or choose not to pray at all. With few exceptions, no one seems to care how anyone has chosen to support Tripp and his family because each person in their own way only wants what is best for Tripp.
I am sure that my grandmother would be quite mad at me for forgetting the verse, in fact she would certainly whack me upside my head with her Bible if she were here, but the verse goes something like this, "...and a child shall lead them...". The simple truth is that community is what you make it, not what you tolerate or ignore. Tripp's Community has taken him in their arms through simple words of encouragemnt to various fundraisers over the past few months with more on the way. The outpouring of support has left me completely amazed and at times in tears. Stacy and Bill, Tripp's parents, have tried to express their gratitude, but it is obvious that sometimes there are just no words that are adequate to express genuine gratitude.
The roller coaster that Tripp has been on since the accident only highlights how strong the fight in this child is. If faith and love can move mountains, we are all reading about it with each new post. This may sound corny, but community really IS what you make it people. So, go do something good, nice or right for your community or someone in it. Now the hard part, do NOT tell a sole about it. Instead, just say these words silently to yourself, "For Tripp." Do it enough, and I am willing to bet that you will see your community blossom the way Tripp's has.