It was Monday morning, November 3, 1969 – 50 years ago today. I had just taken the SAT test as a senior in high school on Saturday, November 1st, and was in gym class during first period that started at 8:00 a.m. that November morning. Mr. Warden, the basketball coach and teacher in physical ed class that morning had prepared us for a game of line soccer.
Remember that this was a year after Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated – and Morgan Park, where I went to school, was an amalgamation of every sort of imaginable student. White, black, rich, poor, smart and not-so-smart all attended the school. During our game that morning, a black friend of mine on the opposing team and I collided; I ended up hearing three loud “pops” in my right leg as I went down to the ground, hitting the back of my neck with my right heel. Talk about painful!
The collision was not intentional – I repeat, it was not intentional, but there was no question that the incident fanned the flames already smoldering in the school. I had been attacked the year before and beaten almost unconscious with a lead pipe and a motorcycle chain wrapped around my neck – and some of my white friends were concerned that I was marked a second time. Nothing could be further from the truth, at least as far as I knew. But several of my friends had been victimized in the events that had occurred after the announcement of Dr. King’s death and the riots that followed in Chicago so there was a general feeling of unrest throughout the school.
It was embarrassing for me as well. After my knee was examined, I was told to walk across the school to the attendance office for an early dismissal. But the problem wasn’t my knee, it was my ankle and lower leg. By the time I hobbled across the school, I could no longer see my foot and I waited to be picked up by my mother. A trip to the hospital followed where it was confirmed that I had suffered a spiral compound fracture in my lower leg, just above my ankle, during the collision.
It was the only time I have ever broken a bone and I was put on codeine – I later found out I was allergic to it. The next several days were a blur, including a fall down the stairs, breaking my crutches on the night before my leg was set and suffering pain from the break. Fortunately, I didn’t need surgery to set my leg and the next six weeks or so I was in a cast until close to the new year.
The whole episode was one of the most upsetting times in my life, at least to that point. In fact, I haven’t broken any other bones since then, although I have had my share of pulled muscles, a severed tendon and several other medical issues that required surgery. As I look back on my life, I have been rather fortunate – things could have been much worse. In fact, even though Janet has also dealt with health issues, as well as all our children, as a family we have been very blessed in this area – especially in comparison to struggles that we have heard about in other families.
Tonight’s verse comes from the book of Proverbs. As is generally the case, the Proverbs give us advice on how to live our lives. We are told, in Proverbs 3:7-9, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops…”
That’s my encouragement this evening. God delights in us when we turn against evil and honor Him with the best of what we have. My prayer is that each of us will continue to stay on the straight and narrow path – depending on one another for wise counsel and help in building our faith and trust in God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…