I know a lot of people aren’t big fans of Mondays.
Lately, I haven’t been either. Especially in my hometown.
Two Mondays in October in Las Vegas
Two Mondays ago, I awoke to news of the largest mass shooting in modern American history. In a place I know very well – my hometown – 59 people lost their lives and 500 more were injured.
Having attended a concert or two at the Mandalay Bay, memories came flooding back.
Knowing my wife ran a marathon whose start and finish line passed through the same space where people lost their lives, this tragedy was different. Young adults I once pastored ran for their lives. Teens who attend my alma mater fought for their lives in hospital intensive care units. A former colleague of my wife’s used his one and a half arms to carry a young woman to safety after making a tourniquet to stop the bleeding in her leg.
Last week was an emotional time for our entire country, especially for those in and around Las Vegas.
But that was just one Monday in October. There was another to come.
Then, this Monday (yesterday if you’re reading this article the day it was posted), I missed two calls from my dad and got a “Call me ASAP” text message.
In many sermons I’ve given, I’ve said that we’re all one phone call away from a life-changing moment.
Now, it was my turn to experience this reality.
After missing my dad when I called back, my mind began to move through possibilities. The option which seemed most reasonable involved something with my grandparents in their mid to late 80s.
I wasn’t prepared for it to be about my mom.
When my dad finally called back, he cut straight to the point.
“Your mom has had a heart attack.”
This Wasn’t on the Calendar
After hearing how they got to the hospital and that my mom was in the heart cath lab, I drove my oldest son around for a couple minutes as I collected my thoughts and emotions.
I quickly transitioned into “do mode.”
-Call and stop the repair shop from doing a transmission flush on our van.
-Call my wife and ask, “Can you work from home today and tomorrow?”
-Cancel staff meeting
-Tell a team member, “We’ll need to have that conversation while I’m on the road.”
-Ask a few people to pray for my mom
-Don’t post on social media, so dad isn’t inundated with calls and visitors at the hospital.
-Text my brother and see if he can go home today too.
I drove four hours north yesterday and arrived mid-afternoon to be with my family.
This Really Changes My Perspective
As I was driving from the place I now call home to the place I first called home, a phrase came to mind.
“This really changes my perspective”
In the hours, days and weeks after a traumatic event, we often reach for this phrase to describe how we feel. And the words often fit. For a time, we find it impossible to mentally move on from what happened. Every hour (or half-hour), every day or a few times per week, we find ourselves unable to focus on anything other than the traumatic event.
The timing differs for all of us, but what happens two or three days later? A week later? A month? When the calendar changes to a new year, will we still remember or sustain the new perspective?
What we’ve forgotten doesn’t change us. What hasn’t changed our behavior doesn’t remain with us.
I thought this was a worthy goal when I first assembled those words in that order. I realized I wanted to help you to see something in a new light, to perceive something in a different perspective.
But without a tangible adjustment in what you do and how you live, your perspective change won’t transform anything permanently. In the same way that a heart attack patient will not remain healthy unless they change their diet, exercise regimen and lifestyle, we don’t change because we cannot get an event out of our minds for a season.
My Mom is Okay
My mom was very blessed. She identified the symptoms as a heart attack very quickly. She had my dad call 911 and paramedics arrived quickly. They assessed her and got her to a good hospital. The blockage was a small one in a very small artery, which cleared later in the day due to blood thinners. Her heart shows no sign of muscle damage. All things considered, things could have been much worse.
Despite the positive outcome, she’s already initiated the conversation around next steps. She’s thinking about what can change and how she will step forward. She doesn’t want to be one of the many adults who are diagnosed with heart disease after a crisis event but do not make substantive changes to their own lifestyle to extend their life expectancy.
While some have told us that such a small heart attack with no lingering blockage and discernable damage is often referred to as a “heart event,” our family decided we’re all going with the phrase “heart attack.” Not because we have a flair for the dramatic (well, maybe we do – consider our last name), we’re going with “heart attack” because we don’t want to downplay this event. We don’t want to minimize the impact, nor the adjustments which need to be made.
Tomorrow Isn’t a Day on Our Calendars
Yes, the events of Mondays, October 1 and October 8, 2017, did change my perspective. But they also led to actions.
My brother and I both shifted work responsibilities and made it home to be with our mom. I’m coming home for longer than originally anticipated at Thanksgiving next month. We’ll be preparing the meal so our mom isn’t in the kitchen all day. And this list continues.
If returning to the original “normal” after traumatic events like these is not a good option, then it’s even worse to wait for something difficult or painful to occur to change perspective and behavior. I’m going to guess there’s something you’ve been putting off in your life.
Maybe it’s a conversation with someone you care about deeply. The phone call(s) you keep telling yourself you’ll make when there’s time – make time to make them.
Maybe it’s a step you’ve been afraid of taking, but you know it’s the right, wise next step. Take the risk before the chance evaporates. Fear will always outlast the opportunity window.
It could be a change in your work, family, lifestyle, city-of-residence, or church you attend. Sure, it may be uncomfortable, but discomfort now is better than regret later.
Many of us know something we’re supposed to do, but we’re scared. So, we push that “thing” off until “tomorrow,” hoping we’ll have the courage to face the fears then.
As someone who is really not a fan of the last two Mondays involving the town I was born in, I hope these words empower you with not only a new perspective. I hope my experiences and words catalyze new action.