What Was and What Is

25 10 2004

The upper school students spent the whole day at a ropes course. Most of the activities were designed to encourage teamwork in overcoming obstacles. But toward the end of the afternoon, the course director offered the kids a chance at an individual challenge.

At least several stories above the ground, a single board extended from a platform, like an ultra-thin pirate’s plank. More than an adult body-length away from the end of the board, a trapeze hung suspended over space.

The procedure was simple enough. Climb the ladder to the platform, walk to the end of the board, and dive across the gap to grasp the trapeze.

The braver students took turns strapping into the harness and attempting the feat. A couple of them changed their minds and came back down before reaching the platform. One girl made it partway onto the board, froze in terror, and had to be lowered, weeping, to the ground.

As one of the teacher chaperones, I stood by, my palms sweating in sympathy with the fear in their eyes as, one by one, the students tried but failed to complete the course. A few made it to the jump, but fell shy of the trapeze, and inched their way back to the ground with bruised pride and — adding insult to injury — a serious wedgie.

With each attempt, I glanced at Jacob. He watched intently, a familiar fire burning behind his eyes. After most had tried and none had succeeded, he stepped forward.

I watched him climb the ladder with determination, never looking down. He reached the platform and, without hesitation, walked directly to the end of the board.

A fellow teacher stood beside me mesmerized. She whispered, “He’s going to do it. I know he’s going to do it.”

Jacob remained poised on the end of the board for what was probably no more than ten seconds, but it felt like an eternity. My heart pounded in my chest. I smiled my encouragement, but his eyes were glued to the trapeze.

He bent his knees, swung his arms back, and dove.

I can see it in my mind like a slow motion replay. He flew through space, never taking his eyes off the goal, knowing that the challenge was far more mental than physical. If he focused and believed, he would make it.

A collective gasp and then a cheer. He caught the trapeze and swung back and forth, his converse-clad feet dangling in victory far above my head.

Only a few weeks later Jacob nearly drowned and lay unconscious in ICU, breathing with the help of a respirator. Thus began the biggest challenge of his life.

Now, after more than eight years, I sometimes gasp at the beauty I see in him. The determination. The focus. The faith.

He can no longer leap across space to grasp a trapeze. But when it comes to the secrets of flying, Jacob’s feet are still dancing in places far above my head.


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26 responses

26 10 2004
traci37

Wow! Are you trying to make me cry with all these recent entries? I’m not sure what to say but you communicate life beautifully.

26 10 2004
traci37

Wow! Are you trying to make me cry with all these recent entries? I’m not sure what to say but you communicate life beautifully.

26 10 2004
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Traci. What you said was perfect.

26 10 2004
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Traci. What you said was perfect.

26 10 2004
jetpacknomad

That’s really neat.

26 10 2004
jetpacknomad

That’s really neat.

26 10 2004
lbsteffy

You don’t have to try…

…I already have tears in my eyes from that resplendent story.

26 10 2004
lbsteffy

You don’t have to try…

…I already have tears in my eyes from that resplendent story.

26 10 2004
emma_furlong

You have a wonderful gift of putting words to paper and making us see each scene as it happened. You really inspire me to reach for the next star,
Bless You
emma
http://www.livejournal.com/users//emma_furlong
BTW I have put up on my LJ a way to put off Telemarketers. Am I in the running for Pickles, hmmmm

26 10 2004
emma_furlong

You have a wonderful gift of putting words to paper and making us see each scene as it happened. You really inspire me to reach for the next star,
Bless You
emma
http://www.livejournal.com/users//emma_furlong
BTW I have put up on my LJ a way to put off Telemarketers. Am I in the running for Pickles, hmmmm

26 10 2004
jeannedamoff

Sometimes the simplest compliment says it best. ;o)

Thanks.

26 10 2004
jeannedamoff

Sometimes the simplest compliment says it best. ;o)

Thanks.

26 10 2004
jeannedamoff

Re: You don’t have to try…

Aw, Steffy. You’re sweet. I look forward to seeing you SOON.

♥ EZ

26 10 2004
jeannedamoff

Re: You don’t have to try…

Aw, Steffy. You’re sweet. I look forward to seeing you SOON.

♥ EZ

26 10 2004
jeannedamoff

Thank you so much. If my writing inspires you to reach for the stars, then I’ve done more than I could have hoped.

Your telemarketer idea is clever! :o)

Bless you, too.
EZ

26 10 2004
jeannedamoff

Thank you so much. If my writing inspires you to reach for the stars, then I’ve done more than I could have hoped.

Your telemarketer idea is clever! :o)

Bless you, too.
EZ

26 10 2004
Anonymous

beautiful

Hi Jeanne, I loved what you wrote here. And as you said on my blog, I need to stop looking down and keep looking up. Yes, I should soar on the wings of anticipation, all the while looking into Jesus’ eyes.

Please tell Jacob thank you for the lesson of his life.

mary

26 10 2004
Anonymous

beautiful

Hi Jeanne, I loved what you wrote here. And as you said on my blog, I need to stop looking down and keep looking up. Yes, I should soar on the wings of anticipation, all the while looking into Jesus’ eyes.

Please tell Jacob thank you for the lesson of his life.

mary

26 10 2004
jeannedamoff

Re: beautiful

Hi Mary,

I will tell Jacob, “Thank you for the lesson of your life,” and he will get a twinkle in his eye, and then he’ll start laughing, because he’ll think I’m joking. He has no idea how powerful his life is. And guess what? Neither do you. ;o)

Love, Jeanne

26 10 2004
jeannedamoff

Re: beautiful

Hi Mary,

I will tell Jacob, “Thank you for the lesson of your life,” and he will get a twinkle in his eye, and then he’ll start laughing, because he’ll think I’m joking. He has no idea how powerful his life is. And guess what? Neither do you. ;o)

Love, Jeanne

15 03 2005
Anonymous

Sitting here with a big ole lump in my throat. Thank you. I couldn’t help but think of the verse that tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus. I don’t want to get distracted, fearful, or miss the goal.

15 03 2005
Anonymous

Sitting here with a big ole lump in my throat. Thank you. I couldn’t help but think of the verse that tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus. I don’t want to get distracted, fearful, or miss the goal.

16 03 2005
jeannedamoff

Something else cool happened that day. After Jacob succeeded, several other students (some had tried and failed already) managed to complete the course. I think they just needed a forerunner — someone to show them it could be done. We have that, don’t we? He has gone before us, and our victory is secure.

Thanks for your comment!

Jeanne

16 03 2005
jeannedamoff

Something else cool happened that day. After Jacob succeeded, several other students (some had tried and failed already) managed to complete the course. I think they just needed a forerunner — someone to show them it could be done. We have that, don’t we? He has gone before us, and our victory is secure.

Thanks for your comment!

Jeanne

16 03 2005
Anonymous

Great Post

Beauiful, inspired writing, Jeanne. I’m going to remember Jacob keeping his eyes on the goal. That, for me, is the very heart of a wonderful story.

Pat

16 03 2005
Anonymous

Great Post

Beauiful, inspired writing, Jeanne. I’m going to remember Jacob keeping his eyes on the goal. That, for me, is the very heart of a wonderful story.

Pat

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