Never Give Up

Never Give Up

From A 6th Bowl of Chicken Soup for the Soul

Never Give Up

What we do today, right now, will have an accumulated effect on all our tomorrows.

Alexandra Stoddard

At twenty-three, Chad’s life was just beginning. Handsome and popular, he had been a long-distance runner and a top wrestler in school and was still pursued by young women of all descriptions. People who met Chad couldn’t help but like him instantly. He had a wide, infectious smile, brimmed with good humor and was the sort of person who would drop everything at a moment’s notice to help out a friend.

He had purchased the motorcycle to have transportation to the two jobs he held. Working two jobs would help him save for a better apartment and maybe a car and some furniture of his own. But one night on his way to job number two, a drunk driver, who carried no insurance, careened into him, spilling the bike and shattering Chad’s leg. Now, at twenty-three, his life seemed to be ending.

For seven agonizing months, Chad lay in a hospital bed, staring at the metal framework of skewers that penetrated his leg at several points, holding it together. Pieces of his bone had been left in the street, and Chad went through operation after operation in a vain attempt to save the leg from amputation. His friends organized blood drives for Chad’s operations, and his supervisors at work held his job open for him in hopes he would be able to return to work.

When the doctors announced the leg had to come off, Chad sank into a bitter despair. How would he function with only one leg? Would he become repulsive to women and never marry or have the family he had always dreamed of? And how would he ever find a way to pay the hospital bills that had now soared to the cost of a new three-bedroom house?

Nothing we did cheered Chad or eased his deep depression, as we waited for his bone infection to be cured before the leg was amputated. It would not be good to undergo such an operation with Chad not caring if he survived it.

One night, I brought the husband of a colleague of mine at work to Chad’s hospital room. Gene began talking at once, joking with Chad, telling him he was “on his last leg” and he “only had one leg to stand on.”

Chad was furious. “How can you come into my room and talk like that when they’re going to cut off my leg?” he demanded to know.

Gene just shrugged. Then he bent over, unbuckled his own leg and threw the prosthesis on Chad’s bed. I left them alone.

When I returned an hour later, Gene was gone and the light had come back into Chad’s green eyes.

“You should hear his story!” Chad said. “He stopped late at night on the freeway to change a flat tire. He was opening the trunk to fetch the spare when a drunk driver going sixty-five miles an hour honed in on his taillights and rear-ended Gene’s car. Gene jumped as high as he could at the last moment, but one of his legs was cut clean off at the knee and the other was so badly mangled he came very close to losing it, too. The drunk driver had no insurance, and Gene had a wife and three children to support. And I thought I had problems! Gene manages the San Diego sports arena and is going to get me front-row tickets to my favorite rock band as soon as I recover from surgery and have learned to walk on a prosthesis!” His eyes softened then. “Gene says that people who give to others always get back more than they give. He said not to worry about my future. It will work out. He said the main thing was never to give up.”

Four months later, Chad was back at work. He was self-conscious about his limp, exhausted at the end of every day, and the new prosthesis rubbed endless blisters on his tender stump. But he remembered Gene’s words. He learned to ride a bicycle with his “fake leg,” rode a horse bareback for the very first time, took off the prosthesis and swam one-legged in the ocean and at night when no one could see, he practiced running slow, jagged laps at the high school track.

A month after returning to work, Chad plucked up his courage and asked a pretty new girl at work if she’d like to go out with him. He was surprised when she said yes. He didn’t know it then, but he had just asked out his future wife and mother of his three children-to-be. Jane didn’t care how many legs Chad had. She cared only that he had a big heart.

The hardest problem for Chad was wondering how he would ever get back on his “foot” financially. The hospital bills he owed would take thirty years to pay. He would never be able to afford a car or a home, but he refused to give up. He remembered Gene’s words and paid whatever he could afford to the hospital twice a month.

Not long after he met Jane, one of his doctors called. Often they called to ask Chad to rush to the hospital and offer comfort and support to an injury victim facing amputation. No matter how tired or sore Chad was, no matter what hour of the day or night he was called, he never refused to drop everything and help out a fellow human being in need. But this call was different.

“Chad,” the doctor began, “because you underwent experimental procedures during the months we tried to save your leg, many people became acquainted with your case. I am calling to tell you that an anonymous stranger has just paid all your medical bills.”

Gene was right. People who give freely to others get back more than they give.

Anita Grimm

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