Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

An Example of Courage

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I’ve driven by the building countless times. I hardly notice the size anymore. But to Sean, it was overwhelming.

We parked and stepped out of the car. He was a step behind as Noah and I walked to the front door. Other kids were already being dropped off and walking toward the same entrance. They were all dressed in the type of gear that ball players wear these days. Brightly decorated shoes. Socks with a stripe down the back. Baggy shorts and shirts.

As soon as we stepped in the building we could hear these bright shoes as they squeaked across the floor. We could smell wood floors and leather balls.

We walked up to the table attended by a man in an orange shirt. I wrote down both of the boys names and their grade. We were given numbers to pin to the backs of their shirts. And then they stepped out onto the floor, basketball in hand.

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Life is so busy it is easy to forget how hard life has been for Sean. Last night I was reminded of how unfair life has been to him.

First to be born with a cleft lip and palate. To have something “wrong” with you from the start. And even though I know the deformity makes him more beautiful, he does not see that yet.

Unfair to be born where children with deformities are viewed as less than “normal” ones. I am reminded of the story where the disciples asked Jesus about a blind man. They wanted to know who was the sinner, the blind man or his parents, their question heavy with assumptions about the acceptability of the disabled man. Jesus of course said neither. I wonder if they believed him.

Unfair because his parents must not have had access to the resources that could correct it. There are surgeons so skilled at reconstructing cleft lip you would never even know. Did they know this? Were they not able to get him into see someone on their own?

Unfair because his parents felt their only option was to leave him at a hospital. To abandon him, not because they did not love him, but because they did. To place him down in the one place they felt he needed the most, and then to walk away.

Unfair to grow up in an orphanage. A place that at its very best can only be an institution. A place where he would receive the basic needs of life, like warmth and clothing. But a place that would not be able to give him the kind of love that parents can.

Unfair because as he grew up, he was probably rarely celebrated. When he took his first steps, did anyone throw a party? When he looked in the mirror at his lip, was anyone there to tell him how beautiful he really is?

Unfair because as others kids began to grow, their parents helped them to learn. Other kids were taken to Saturday morning leagues and given size appropriate basketball to play with. Unfair because there was not ad there to play with him and lift him up so he could pretend to dunk the ball. Unfair because there was no mom to hug him when he stepped off the court.

Unfair because so late in life, Sean is finally getting exposed to organized basketball. Up to this point, everything he knows about it he has taught himself. How to dribble. How to shoot. Nobody has been there to help guide him and show him and to teach him.

As I watched him last night, I was amazed, not by how good he is at basketball, but because of how hard he is trying, even in the midst of how unfair life has been.

Last night I learned something about courage.

Life is so busy for all of us, it can be easy to forget how hard it is for others. How unfair life can be. How hard it can be to do the simplest things.

But if we stop and notice, we can see it. And we can learn something about that person. We can learn something about ourselves. We can learn something about what really matters in life.

Is Sean going to make it to the NBA some day? Probably not. But his courage is amazing. Watching him play last night I understood more fully what a privilege it is to be his dad.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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