For nearly 14 years I’ve carried with me an aging reminder that there is value in striving for growth; growth in relationships, the workplace, my faith…and growth in myself.
Before your imagination runs wild I’ll tell you the item is just a bag, and not a particularly impressive one by the modern standards of bags. It’s rectangular and woven from a synthetic blend, with just three pockets with zippers (two outside, and the main one.)
I’ve carried in it my audio recording gear, books, snacks, and more, from Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, to a Ricola herb farm in the Alps, to many coffee shops (just regular coffee shops.)
When I received this bag from a week-long radio reporting seminar from The Poynter Institute, I didn’t realize the symbol it would become, and how much I’d appreciate it.
Her screams cut me deeper than she meant them to, but the facts were clear: I was deficient, and this helplessness was a new layer to my trauma.
To her I’m a constant; one of two people she knows to rescue her from the hunger she can’t yet understand, and the fear of loneliness she knows only by instinct.
But in this state —without use of my arms after a vehicle crash— I could feel the vulnerability of not fully acting as the big, strong daddy my 7-month-old needs me to be; the one who can lift her the highest, and embrace her the tightest.
Or the one who comforts her when she cries.
I maneuvered my fractured left wrist to her one side, and my separated shoulder and damaged right arm to the other, as I bent into her bassinet as deeply as I could.
With every ounce of my strength and coordination, I pulled her small, emotionally-exhausted frame to my chest in a kind of desperate bear hug.
By the time my wife returned to the room my daughter had calmed.
There is a split-second for your body to prepare for the trauma before the car slams into your left side, and a leisurely ride into work on a sunny day becomes an exhausting and painful day at the hospital.
Your fight-or-flight instinct is sparked by the adrenaline pumping through your vulnerable shell: your heart pounds; your muscles tense; your awareness is heightened, just as the worst of your situation becomes the prime object of your focus.
The hood of the car is, all at once, a white blur streaking toward you, and also a crystal clear threat to your existence.