A Deepening at the Center

When I started this blog I told the story of our fourteen year old BJs first varsity soccer game. For those of you who don't know us, he plays soccer competitively. He loves the game, and our life has been consumed with soccer for years. I wrote about the remarkable new team that he plays with. The leadership I see in these young men and the way they have embraced him. The pride that they have collectively in their school. And the determination to succeed in the name of two of his team mates fathers; one who lost his battle with cancer over the summer and one who is still fighting, and we hope winning. 

 
My focus was on adaptability and change. How he moved from one system, his club team, to a new system and became a part of it so quickly. I had hoped there would be some learning about how to quickly find core and common purpose within a new system or project team. Today this story takes a different turn. 
 
Last week, during a league game, BJ took a hard hit from behind. We heard the results of the MRI and told him after practice yesterday that he has a ruptured ACL.  I will never forget the disappointment and pain in his eyes when we told him that he would not be able to play soccer for six months. The rehab would be intense and significant. "What about club soccer in the Spring," he asks. And of course we try to say all the right things, "this is a disappointment, but it is only a set back." "You can fully recover from this and be stronger than ever, half the U.S. ski team has had ACL reconstructive surgery." But in this moment the rug has been pulled out from under him, and the goals he has set for himself and worked so hard to achieve have been altered.
 
I find myself pondering adaptability. Is that the story that wants to be told? Clearly BJ has to adapt, and frankly I realize that I am in the process of adapting to this as well. I'm still in the transition stage that William Bridges calls,  letting go. I feel all the sadness and frustration that comes with having to adjust my view of how things are. It may be too fresh, too new, to be able to raise the flag on how to adapt when change hits you right between the eyes. 
 
There is another piece to this tale that I haven't shared. There are heroes that have emerged from the ashes. A coach and a trainer that insisted on a deeper evaluation. A doctor who has become a guardian angel of sorts and taken BJ under his wing, and without ever expecting to receive any monetary compensation for the role he has chosen to play.
 
When we took BJ to the doctor the day following the injury, the Kaiser trauma specialist said he was fine. "A strain, but he should be back to normal in two to four weeks and able to return to play." No follow up appointment, a quick two minute assessment that could have resulted in a more severe injury. But the coach and the team trainer insisted the next day that it was more serious than that. I am grateful that they took a stand and trusted what they felt over the diagnosis of a doctor. They asked us to bring him to the high school football game where an orthopedic surgeon named Jim Johnson had agreed to take a look at the knee. Dr. Jim examined the knee, and said he felt it was a torn ACL. He suggested we request an MRI and contact the orthopedic area at Kaiser on Monday for further evaluation. 
 
I spent Monday morning on the phone trying to get BJ in to see a specialist and requesting the MRI, but long story short, we had to return to the same office and a second exam which resulted in, "I don't think it's bad news." They did offer the x-ray and agreed to get the MRI scheduled for two weeks out. Because they did not feel it was all that serious, we could not get an appointment until October 12th to see an orthopedic doctor. A full month following the injury.
 
Dr. Johnson called us at home on Monday night, and felt strongly we should get the MRI sooner even if we had to pay out of pocket. "It is important that you know the extent of the injury so that he doesn't damage it further." We agreed. The next day his nurse and his scheduling staff called around to imaging centers to find the least expensive MRI. "If you can pay cash today, it will only cost you $450." They scheduled an appointment on our behalf for that night and requested the results be sent by courier to Dr. Johnson. Jim agreed to look at the report and call us as soon as he got the results. His entire group was proactive and responsive, despite the fact that he knew we could not use him due to our insurance coverage. Retelling this story I almost can't believe there are people so giving. But it doesn't stop there.
 
Yesterday after he called to tell us the outcome of the MRI, I told him I couldn't get in to an orthopedic doctor until mid October. He said, "I have a couple of good friends who are orthopedic surgeons at Kaiser. Let me see what I can do." 
 
Within an hour the call came in from the nurse of one of Dr. Johnson's "good friends," and  we have an appointment on Monday with a surgeon. I find myself wondering, how can I ever repay the kindness of this man who had nothing to gain from helping us. In many ways, I am as touched emotionally by his generosity as I am by the disappointment and the difficulty that BJ will face over the next several months.   I'm struck by the clarity this man has about who he is and what he does, deep at the center. He likely never thought of handling it any other way. 
 
So what is the message of this story, is it about adaptability? I keep coming back to a quote about systems from Margaret Wheatley's book,  Leadership and the New Science. "Stability comes from a deepening center, a clarity about who it is, what it needs, what is required to survive in its environment." For each of us, whether an individual or an organization, transformation comes from finding and holding fast to who we are at the core, while remaining fluid and in motion as the environment calls us forth to change and grow in its constant ebb and flow. 
 
I find myself wondering, who is it that we are becoming, this family of mine who has had its share of difficulty this year? And who are we at our core? Perhaps even more compelling, what does the environment need from us to survive and continue to thrive and grow? 
 
As I sit here at my desk considering these questions, I see our strength and continued optimism. We prescribe to the belief that we must live the life we love and love the life we live. We are a strong and resilient bunch, each of us tested by our own fire. We don't pretend that life is easy, and yet refuse to be defined by the trials and tribulations we face.  We open our hearts and share what is there. We have demonstrated an ability, with some regrets, to let go of how we thought it should be. We honor and show deep gratitude for the gifts we receive in the midst of our struggles, with special thanks for the gifts of strangers.  
 
I just wrote that life is preparing us for something beautiful...and I see that I am wrong, it already has. I don't know what will come next.  I have to keep remembering who we are at the core and take that in to the future that we will create together.

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