Blessings by Accident

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess. 5:16-18)

Recently this message was brought home to me again when I suffered second- and third-degree burns on my right hand. For a moment that now seems frozen in my memory as a visual experience, my kitchen threatened to go ablaze. Then I watched my own hand covered with flames as melted wax flared in the burning saucepan I’d grabbed. In the weeks that have followed this very painful experience, I have found myself repeatedly and increasingly thankful: that my clothes did not catch on fire, but protected my arm; that only my hands were burned; that my house did not catch on fire; that excellent medical attention was only a 15-minute drive away; that pain medication has kept me comfortable nearly all of the time for weeks; that I’ve had loving and very caring assistance and support from family, dear friends, and co-workers. So much for which to be thankful! And most of all, for the miracle of healing, as I’ve watched my wounds gradually transformed into tender, pink, new flesh.

I’ve found myself praying, too. For the strength to hold on until we reached the emergency room and treatment began. For my distressed family members whose busy lives have been upended by my accident. And for the other souls I’ve encountered in the urban hospital burn center where I’ve been going for treatment: the tiny toddler with burns on her neck and face; the teenage girl whose face clearly has been completely reconstructed, but who can joke and smile nevertheless; the man brought in chains from the Philadelphia prison system for treatment; the orthopedic patient who cannot stop loudly complaining because he is not getting the attention he feels he deserves; the cheerful elderly patient whose humorous commentary helps us all to relax as we wait for our wounds to be tended. And prayers of thanks for the divine grace by which we all have been surrounded.

The kindness of others has been a healing balm. Flowers at home from my daughter and at work from an old friend and colleague. Cards and e-mail messages wishing me well from friends and members of my meeting. Reiki healing sessions offered for free on a weekly basis by a group of loving practitioners. Prayer support from family and friends. I am amazed and humbled to be so lovingly supported.

This situation has left me unable to forge ahead at my usual relentless pace. It’s forced me to reorganize my life and my priorities. It’s underscored the foolishness of trying to do three things at once (which is what I was doing when that wax caught on fire). Each moment of life is so full of grace, such a gift—why rush through it headlong? As I’ve slowed down to accommodate my healing, I’ve pondered the contemporary obsession with time management and multi-tasking, particularly by those of us who have very demanding jobs and busy family lives. Do we serve ourselves and others best when we accomplish many things or when we bring the full energy of our focused presence to what we do? We Friends easily can get overextended undertaking activities intended to render the world a better place. Here are some reflections I’ve had while sitting in waiting rooms: Most things aren’t as urgent as we experience them to be. Although people can be very self-absorbed in moments of duress, they also can be very kind. Patience and humor go a long way to mend difficulties or make them bearable. It’s so important to take life at a reasonable pace and to stay focused in the blessing of the present moment! How ironic that it took an accident to slow me down and remind me of the importance of everyday simplicity.