What is a miracle? It’s an astounding moment in time; some would deem an act of God. The reality of such manifestations is more in the realm of possibility that one might think. Living a life of service to others will inspire divine incidence time and time again. I’m a witness.
When I look back at my own recovery some 18 years ago while recuperating at The Rehabilitation Institute at Santa Barbara, I thought every day was a miracle. Well, was it really a miracle? Let’s see…. If I back up to the moment of my accident, while body surfing, a seemingly angry wave snapped my neck and left me 20 yards out, 3 feet underwater, totally paralyzed and alone.
Though I’ve told the story many times and tried diligently to articulate the experience, my words fail to express the otherworldly, ethereal nature of it. I heard a crack and then nothing, no real kinesthetic prowess, and no pain. I had drifted into a blissful abyss of unconditional acceptance and love. Suffice to say, it was like being in God’s hot tub. The energy that enveloped me was indescribably kind.
Though I knew at that moment that I would have to drown to discard the human cage that contained me, I was more than willing to open my mouth and allow the ocean water to pour in and release what humanness remained. Well, the enticing journey ahead would have to wait as when I opened my mouth to let go, I felt a hand lift me from the bottom and instead of a mouth full of water; a mouthful of fresh air filled my lungs. I was guided and placed gently at the shore where the lifeguard with the most seniority on the Central Coast happened to be on duty and was able to stabilize me until the paramedic got there who happened to be the paramedic with the most seniority on the Central Coast, really? …. He handled me perfectly and transported me in my stillness to the hospital where they rolled me into the most amazing neurosurgeon on the Central Coast, Dr. Conner, who took one look at me and said “I’ll take this guy” I woke up six hours later in the ICU totally paralyzed. One week later I was moved to rehab.
While in The Rehabilitation Institute at Santa Barbara I was told in so many words that I wouldn’t walk or have normal bodily functions as a result of my injury. I’ll cut to the chase here; I walked out on my own accord in six weeks.
Was it luck, certainly the lifeguard, the paramedics, Doctor Conner and the incomparable Rehab Therapists and Doctors had a hand in it but, I can’t completely dispel the likelihood that divine intervention played a roll in this despite my abundantly apparent, somewhat goofy spirituality. Was it a miracle? Nah, no such thing, right?
The next 6 weeks held a plethora of “awakenings” the least of which being my own reinvention of mind and body. I’d experience a cavalcade of emotional unearthing that would change my conscious train of thought indelibly.
Mario was a young man who also found himself in the capable hands of Doctor Conner as a result of an aneurysm. This aneurism paralyzed the entire right side of his body and like me found him confined, at least for the time being, in a wheelchair. Mario had arrived at the Rehab a day after I did and we became soul mates for a time during our respective recoveries.
Mario 8 years old and me 50, we were improbable soul mates, yet inextricably connected in spirit.
Our first encounter as band-mates occurred in out 1:30 coordination group in Occupational Therapy.
It seems the therapists in the course of Mario’s rehabilitation had to literally force him to stand up from his wheelchair every day thus enticing the nerves and impulses in his tiny, broken and frail body to regenerate. I can’t begin to clarify why but I can tell you that stretching the limits of my own paralysis was paramount in my own recovery. That day in our class the therapists decided to carry out this necessary torture in our presence! Well, Mario became intensely defiant, guarded and rebellious. We were having fun, playing music and laughing when this interruption stopped us all in our tracks. Not only was Mario resisting but the whole room was in solidarity at that moment. Mario’s defiance became our defiance and the therapists lovingly agreed, not today, at least not at this time.
After our collective sigh of relief, Cesar, an extremely positive instigator in our rhythmic pursuit of happiness and healing asked Mario and I to position our wheelchairs so that we were facing each other. He then asked me to play a groove on the djembe while all the others looked on. He then addressed Mario who was our very excellent egg shaker player and said; if you want to play with Eddie, you’ll need to stand up and play your shaker. I wish you could have seen what I saw through my eyes in that moment, it was astonishing! All the energy and attention in the room shifted to Mario as if effortlessly he stood and played along in perfect time.
A miracle? Maybe, you decide.
I met a young man named Josiah in Washington State a few years back in a wonderful place called “Popes Kids Place” Pope’s Kids Place provides respite care for medically complex & fragile children with special health care needs. This very gregarious, expressive young man had it all going on, all but his voice! They told me straight away he was non -verbal. Well, what they should have said was; he’s not verbal yet! I’ve seen many children and adults who get past that block and begin singing like birds. Josiah was just such a child.
During the course of our classes, I employ fun time exercises that can take our minds off the more difficult or tedious tasks such as those concerning laterality or math, shapes, and colors. Everyone’s favorite is called “Hey” Hey”-“Ho” Ho”Let’s go! This is a simple call and response that empowers the leader and has everyone drumming and laughing. The leader says “Hey” Hey” the class responds “Hey” “Hey” The leader says; “Ho” “Ho” and the class responds “Ho” Ho” The leader then says: “Lets Go” the class drums while the leader dances in the middle until he or she says: “Stop”
It really takes the edge off and leaves everyone feeling light and happy.
I’ve worked with many children and adults who were non- verbal so when it is their turn, I become their voice. Everyone participates.
So, as Josiah watched and played drums with the class something happened.
When I brought him up to be the leader and to be his voice, he stepped in front of me and said loudly and clearly “Hey” “Hey” “Ho “Ho” Lets go!
Something clicked, silence was no longer an option in his world, and he’s still talking today.
It seems I could write forever rendering countless inexplicable occurrences throughout my years with The Rhythmic Arts Project.
Early on in my plight to create visibility and expansion in my fledgling program I met a gentleman who was the CEO of a forward-thinking, progressive organization that encompassed five facilities in the Catskill Mountains who served people with Intellectual Differences. George Suess became a dear friend and mentor in these past ten years and will continue to inspire me the rest of my days. His inspiration began with his belief in the methodology when few people in the field of Intellectual Differences were ready to grasp the abstract ideas. George saw past the surface of the facilitation to the spiritual aspect of the program and its uncanny ability to reach folks who were seemingly just too far away. His true talent came in the challenge. He would invite me to work with folks who most others would deem impossible to educate.
One day he asked me to work with 30 three-year-olds in a gymnasium … let me repeat that, 30 three- year old children in a gym! They were like herding scared lizards. I brought a conga drum with me and sat in the middle of the gym. I asked the children, one at a time, to sit with me and play a call and response game, you guessed it; Hey Hey, Ho Ho. Well, this was going swimmingly well believe it or not and then the miracle happened. Everyone was suggesting I invite Henry to participate. Henry came running up to me and sat in my lap, I whispered into his ear Hey Hey and he responded in his biggest, clearest voice; Hey Hey! …. Well it turned out that Henry had never spoken a word before this day.
Another time he had just been charged with the care of two new people who had been released from a state institution where they may as well have been incarcerated for many years. Daryl and Jeannie had severe Autism, sight and hearing impairments and hadn’t really experienced a lot of love or human kindness let alone touch in their previous living conditions. George led me to a room where they sat facing each other in what seemed a state of confusion. I moved a chair and sat between them with a large Djembe. I was careful to make them aware of my closeness and that I would be as soothing and kind a presence as they ever knew. By putting the drum in a position that connected us, knee’s touching; you could easily feel the vibration through our respective bodies. I started playing a slow repetitive beat and in no time their bodies were rocking with the groove, fully engaged, enjoying the experience. Once we make this connection the sky is the limit. No one knows that better than George.
George is beyond a miracle worker; he’s a miracle instigator.
Is a miracle a manifestation of God?
Is it an effect or extraordinary event overruling natural human proficiencies? Or, perhaps it’s a power greater than ourselves working through us.
Yeah, that’s the ticket! I think it’s all of the above …. How about you?
Just food for thought,