• 90°

A change of focus

By Nathan Rice

I was on vacation in Missouri visiting my brother and his family. Jake, my 9-year-old nephew, asked if I’d like to play catch with the football. I followed him outside as we prepared for the game with the football he grasped in his right hand. I strolled to one end of the backyard as he ran to the opposite end. I knew the first few passes that I would throw would cause a noticeable amount of pain in my shoulder. My autoimmune disorder causes inflammation and stiffness in my joints, which takes the process of “warming up” to a new and uncomfortable level.

I let out a grunt with my third throw as the breaking of the stiffness caused pain to wrap around my shoulder. I rubbed my shoulder as I thought about how my arm will never be the same as it was before the onset of my disorder.

A little later in our game, I noticed one of Jake’s passes falling short of where I was standing. My initial reaction was to run forward and bend down to snatch the ball out of the air before it hit the ground. After all, my nephew was expecting me to catch the pass to win the Super Bowl! I started to move forward when my body reminded me that running is something I can no longer do. I remembered that I also could no longer bend down or slide on the ground to catch the ball. My autoimmune disorder removed those abilities from me.

I was sad as the ball landed on the ground in front of me. I wasn’t upset because the “game-winning pass” hit the ground. I was sad because I was reminded of the abilities that my medical condition has taken from me. “A few years ago,” I thought, “I would have had no issue catching that ball.”

I picked up the ball, dejected and depressed. A look around revealed something, however. My nephew stood in front of me, waiting for me to throw the ball back to him. Morgan, my 6-year-old niece, was to my right cheering on her uncle and brother. My brother’s house was to my left, where my parents, brother and sister-in-law sat finishing their breakfast. The previous evening, I slept in a warm, comfortable bed, and I woke up in a heated house that removed the chill that was in the air overnight. There was food in the cupboard, coffee in a carafe, and doughnuts on the table. My physical ailment may have robbed me of some abilities, but there were many good things all around me.

This year has been a rough one for most of us, and this Thanksgiving may not feel like it has in the past. Now we must decide if we will look at the things we lost and the difficulties we face or the blessings that remain around us.

We may be going through a difficult time, but we have so much for which we can be thankful. Don’t let the changes of this holiday season or the difficulties that we face block your ability to see the good things around you.

Let’s take a moment this Thanksgiving to take our eyes off our losses and problems. Let’s focus on, and give thanks for, all that we still have around us. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.