Jun 12, 2016 by Norris Burkes
Last Sunday night, my wife noticed me setting our alarm for an early wake-up. She groaned in protest.
“You can blame Roger,” I said.
“And Roger is …?” Becky asked.
I answered by retelling the story of Roger Revay, the patient I met in 2014 while working as a chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital in Stockton, Calif.
“What brings you to our hospital?” I asked him.
“I broke my collarbone in a fall on the dance floor,” he said.
I rechecked the patient notes I carried. Yes, he really was 90 years old. But even more startling, this nonagenarian expressed a single goal – to rehab his injury and return to the dance floor.
This goal seemed unrealistic in light my anecdotal observations of elderly patients who experienced a quick decline after such a hard fall.
But Revay had taken a hard fall once before. He piloted a B-29 that was blown from the German sky in World War II on his 30th bombing mission. If anyone could return to his rug-cutting days, Roger had the right stuff.
“I remember you wrote his story for Veteran’s Day,” my wife interrupted. “But how is he responsible for waking us so early tomorrow?”
I paused long enough to give her the stink eye before continuing my story.
A few weeks later, I went to see Roger at his rehab facility across town. I found him in a painful session with his physical therapist. Afterward, I asked him how he managed to survive this much pain at his age.
“Well,” he said. “I just show up.”
I gave him a look absent of understanding.
He explained that getting started is often the hardest point in a recovery process. So he didn’t think about the pain; he only promised himself that he’d start the treatments. In other words, he’d “show up.”
Wow. This classy gent was doing more than just surviving – he was thriving!
The reason Roger’s story had me setting an early alarm was because my fitness program began to wane shortly after my military retirement. After a few failed attempts to restart my fitness pledge, Roger’s words took hold – “just show up.”
So I made a pledge that every Monday would become “Show-up Monday.” I promised myself that I would bury my usual excuses.
* Too tired from weekend with grandkids
* More urgent things to do
* Too hot or cold outside
* Early alarm might wake wife
I determined that I’d simply show up, put on my shorts, leash my dog, and stand on the street and wait for motivation.
I did this knowing that Toby-dog wasn’t going to stand still while I stared at my tennis shoes. He would start tugging us to walk. Once we started walking, Toby would start running. And once we started running, we’d run for at least 45 minutes.
My theory – or Roger’s theory – was that some days, the only thing we can muster is the strength to show up. However, showing up engages the power of change. Showing up kick-starts our resiliency.
The prophet Isaiah was talking about resiliency when he said, “Those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.”
Those last dozen words remind me that sometimes we can only gather the strength to show up, remain conscious and not faint.
Now, 18 months later, I’ve renamed Show-up Monday to something catchier – “Make-it-Monday.” I’ve even calendared additional workouts I call Wake-up-Wednesday and Sunrise-Saturday.
“Does Roger write your corny alliteration?” Becky asked.
“Roger doesn’t have time for writing,” I told her. “I called him last week. Apparently he’s going dancing every Friday and Saturday nights.”
– Column excerpted from Norris’ upcoming book, “From Surviving to Thriving.” Write Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, CA 95759. Twitter @chaplain, or call 843-608-9715.