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On Broken Legs and Personalities January 28, 2010

Posted by markgeil in Awana.
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Last night, Jared broke his leg. Jared is a plucky little boy who attends our Wednesday night Awana program at church. A group of kids likes to play “tag” each week after the program, and Jared was among them. There was a collision, Jared fell, someone fell on top of him, and then he started wailing.

I was in a little sound room, putting away a microphone, when I heard the screams. Now, with a day’s reflection, I’m fascinated by different peoples’ reactions to the calamity. Most of the kids stopped, stared for a moment, and backed away from the heap of sobbing boy in the middle of the floor. Others stepped in for a closer look. There’s personality marker number one: do you back away or get closer? I suspect you can already categorize yourself as one or the other.

The grownups closest to Jared offered what immediate aid they could. Where does it hurt?, Try to be calm, that sort of thing. Our Children’s Director followed the sound of the cries to Jared and took charge. Interesting, I’m thinking in retrospect, that’s usually the role I play. Now I might be reading too much into this, but I’ve pondered why Sonya, the Children’s Director, immediately rushed to Jared’s side while I did not, and I have a theory. Here comes personality marker number two. She’s a mom. Obviously, I am not. Jared is a boy. Sonya has a son, while I am a father of daughters, so I might have developed a double standard along the way. Jared’s a tough boy, I thought, almost subconsciously. He’ll be okay. I’ll help him in a second once I put away this stack of papers. I think if that had been a little girl screaming on the floor I would have hastened to her side. Curious.

Sonya sent me to fetch Jared’s mom and one of our leaders who is a nurse. In the hall I was immediately beset with Awana questions from people who did not know about the nearby trauma. I sent Sarah Kate to find the nurse and answered questions while summoning Jared’s mom. Funny, it never occurred to me to send someone for Jared’s dad, who was in the other building. At that point I was more focused on what we should do with Jared. Maybe that’s a personality marker also. I’m fairly clinical and analytical, even in response to crisis. I’m glad there were others there who were more feeling and thought to send for the poor boy’s mom and dad!

What followed was a continued exercise in personalities, roles, and responses. The nurse struggled to calm Jared and assess his leg. I cleared the room of the gawking kids. Mom offered comfort. Dad cracked jokes to try to distract the boy, and even took some pictures to show him later. Once Jared started declaring that he could not feel his leg, 911 was called. His big sister sat close by, saying little, but clearly feeling his pain in a poignant, emotional way that I did not understand.

It sort of worked out that we all took turns trying to comfort Jared, each in our own way. Some brought cups of water and tissues, attending to physical needs. I seemed to naturally try to attend to Jared’s mental needs. I showed him the brace the EMTs were going to put on his leg. I verified for him that none of the “911’s”, as he called them, had a needle and he would not get a shot. Then a friend of mine named Tom came in and attended to Jared’s spiritual needs. He asked Jared if we could all pray for him, and he said yes. Just then, the EMT’s started trying to roll him over and apply the splint, so Jared started wailing again. The prayers at that point were silent. Once he was supine and calm again, Jared announced, “Why isn’t everyone praying?!” I laughed. We prayed. It helped.

Jared was loaded in the ambulance and we learned later that he had clean breaks through a couple of bones in his leg. Again, a study in contrasts. My immediate response? Must be a tib-fib, shouldn’t affect the growth plates, with thoughts about the most likely treatments. Amy’s immediate response? I wonder if he’s home yet. I want to take him a little care package.

The Bible says that, spiritually, we are different members of one body. Some play metaphorical roles of eyes, others ears, others feet. I think we’re also put together to respond differently to crisis, whether it’s a boy’s broken leg or a massive earthquake in Haiti. Just like we work together well spiritually, I saw Wednesday night how we can work together physically and emotionally as well, and I was once again reminded that God knew what He was doing when he made each of us the way we are.

Oh, and one more response: no more playing “tag” after Awana!

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