“Is he ready to go?”
It was May 1987. I was sitting in a wheelchair, preparing to leave a room where I had spent the previous 19 weeks.
My dad asked the above question of a nurse in the hallway. Not waiting for her answer, I screamed back “Yes, he’s ready!”
I heard his footsteps get closer, rustling outside my room, then the screen pulled back. My dad was pushing a wheelbarrow full of champagne and Lifesavers stacked high with my two-year-old sister, Laura, sitting on top. He brought the wheelbarrow full of goodies as a small token of appreciation for the amazing staff that had cared tirelessly for his little boy who most expected would die.
He bent down next to me, put both of his hands on my legs, leaned forward, kissed my cheek, looked into my eyes and said, “You did it!”
You did it.
What he was referring to was surviving a tragic fire, enduring countless medical procedures, withstanding indescribable pain, and against overwhelming odds, preparing to go home from the hospital that day.
And on that day, as a nine-year-old little boy, sitting in that wheelchair, looking back at my dad, I knew that he was right.
I did it.
Oh, but my friends, retrospectively how wrong I was!
I’ve spent the last three years working, reflecting, better understanding, and writing the story I wanted to share with the world. And what has become so clear to me through the process of writing On Fire is, in fact, how little of it I did.
The day of the explosion, it was my brother Jim who beat down the flames, burning himself and saving my life. He did it.
It was my older sister Amy who embraced me in the front yard and told me that everything was going to be OK when I believed everything was not OK. She did it.
It was my mom and dad who stepped directly into any parent’s worst nightmare and guided me forward with such courage, grace, faith and love. They did it.
It was the doctors, nurses, technicians, therapists, janitors, chaplains, social workers, volunteers, donors, prayer warriors, letter writers, carpool drivers, and frequent visitors that served, worked, encouraged inspired and guided me forward along the path of recovery. They all did it.
The little boy, it turns out, is not the one who did it.
No, instead he was the recipient of great love, great care, and great people who met him where he was on day one and shepherded him through five arduous months.
This reality is so clear to me looking back on my life. I’ve been remarkably blessed with friends, teachers, pastors, mentors, coworkers and a beautiful spouse who appeared right on time, met me where I was, loved me for who I was, and saw within me who I might become. They did it.
Just this past weekend I received a call from a dear classmate from grade school. The local paper in his town was running an Associated Press article about his friend, John O’Leary. After giving me some trouble about wondering if I’d still answer the call of a lowly friend from the past, he said sweetly and sincerely: “John, you did it.”
My friends, let me be very clear: this recovery, this journey, this book, this success, are not the accomplishments of a man bragging on what he did, but undeniable proof of what is possible in our lives when we surrender to the truth that on our own we can be formidable.
But in concert with those around us, when we courageously, boldly, faithfully, step forward and strive to become the best version of ourselves and positively impact those around us, we collectively can move mountains. [Tweet this] | [Share on Facebook]
As further proof, we found out over this weekend, that our book, On Fire, is a National Bestseller, #1 on Amazon, and #2 on the Wall Street Journal.
My friends, we did it!
And I am extremely grateful to you for helping me share and live this message.
This is your day. Live Inspired.
The movement to take back the possibility of our lives is ON! If you, your neighbors, family, friends, or coworkers might benefit from a message that inspires them to become the absolute best versions of themselves, please help us share that message by ordering copies of On Fire today. Together, we can make a profound difference.