Right Opinion

'Welcome To Holland'

Roy Exum · Sep. 26, 2010

I am blessed with a wonderful friend who lives in Texas named Sandy Pofahl. He and I adore great stories and, as he does with many people around the country, he shares his warmth with a weekly mailing called “52Best.” I’m lucky enough to be on his list.

He’s shared a tale or two of mine and, as is only fitting, I need you to read what the wonderful wizard sent out this week in hopes that you, like Sandy, will share it with those certain people in your life you care about.

The story is entitled, “Disabled Child? Welcome to Holland” and was written by one of God’s angels who uses the real-life penname, “Emily Pearl Kingsley.” She writes:

I have a child with disabilities and have been often asked to describe what the experience is like of raising such child. To try to help people to better understand this unique experience I say it is like this:

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of Italian guide books and make your wonderful plans to fly to Rome. You want to visit the Coliseum. See Michelangelo’s statute of David. Ride the Gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After nine months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean, Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

You are told that there’s been a change in plans. The plane has landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease.

It’s not Italy, you are in Holland.

So you must go out and buy new guide books on Holland. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met. It’s just a different place.

It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around… and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills…and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy…and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never go away… because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to go to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very, very lovely things … about Holland.

Well, after Sandy sent Emily’s story to so many of us who needed to read it, another reader who we only know as “Melanie” shared a poem she had written several years ago that … well, I believe fits petty well right here.

It seems that, in her case, a handsome 18-year-old boy was critically injured when he unwittingly stepped into the path of an oncoming car. The teenager, so sharp and bright, was on his way back home after playing in a soccer game and was apparently so preoccupied he was struck in a tragic accident that left him in a coma for quite some time.

We know that “Melanie” sat beside his bed on many nights but, then came that one day when he miraculously regained consciousness. Late that same night, “Melanie” wrote a poem called “Broken” that she shared with Sandy. And, because she did, I get to share it with you:

BROKEN

I didn’t yet know you

That Monday this past January

 When you turned eighteen.

I first heard your name

On Tuesday night

When you were already

Broken.

They say it wasn’t the driver’s fault.

I’m glad for him.

How could he go through life

Plagued by the guilt

Of having been the reason

 For your being

Broken?

If only you hadn’t been

On the soccer team…

If only you’d gotten

A ride home that night…

If only it hadn’t been

Raining so terribly hard…

 But it was,

And so you were

Broken.

I began praying for you

That very night.

With tears

And with all my heart

I begged our God

To restore you

To the way you were

 Before you were

Broken.

I finally met you

Two months later.

You lay, perhaps asleep,

 Your father at your side,

In hospital number three

Since the night you were

Broken.

Little by little,

In steps tinier than a baby’s,

 Your condition has improved.

Sometimes I left your room

In tearful discouragement,

And sometimes

In exuberant rejoicing.

Each time, though,

You remained behind, still

Broken.

Your body hasn’t yet

Regained its former strength and skill.

Your mind hasn’t yet

Regained all its clarity.

 Yet throughout

This long, hard journey,

The faith and hope

Of those who love you-

And your own spirit-

Haven’t been

And cannot be

Broken.

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