“A Wheelchair, Faith, and Chin-ups,” Friend, Feb. 2000, 32
Sister Glazen smiled at Tyler as she nudged him toward Jason’s bedroom door.
“Tyler,” he heard Jason call, “is that you?” His best friend’s voice sounded normal, considering he had been in the hospital for two months.
“Yeah, I’m here.” Tyler’s voice squeaked.
Tyler would never forget the day the Bishop had come into his Primary class and told them that Jason had been hit by a car and seriously injured. The bishop had added that the doctor believed that Jason might never walk again.
Beth raised her hand. “Bishop, didn’t you give Jason a blessing?”
“Yes, his dad and I blessed him that night.”
“Then he’ll be all right,” Beth said.
“You have great faith, Beth. Heavenly Father truly blessed Jason, and I believe that he will live. But I can’t say whether it’s His will that Jason walk again. The Lord’s will is not always our will.”
Bishop Johannsen’s words hit Tyler like a sledgehammer. Jason? Not walk? It didn’t seem possible. Jason could jump higher and run the court faster than any other kid on the basketball team!
“Jason needs your help,” the Bishop said. “Will you all pray for him?”
Tyler had been praying for Jason for two long months, but his friend still couldn’t walk. …
Bright sunlight filled the bedroom. Tyler had to blink before he could see Jason sitting by the window. But what was Jason sitting in?
A wheelchair! It was black with big steel and rubber wheels. Jason looked so small in it! Tyler tried to smile but couldn’t.
“Thanks for coming.” Jason looked up at him.
Tyler sat on the bed. “No problem. How do you feel?”
Jason shrugged. “You heard that I can’t walk?” Tyler nodded. Jason continued, “My spinal cord was injured. I can feel a little bit in my legs, but the feeling is sort of fuzzy. Dr. Miller says I might get some movement back in them if I work hard.”
Tyler felt an ache in his chest but managed not to cry. After all, he wasn’t the one who couldn’t walk, who’d never play basketball again.
The room was quiet for a few seconds before Jason said, “Tyler?”
Tyler felt his lip quiver. “What?”
“It’s been a real long time since I’ve been down to the playground. Would you push me there? Mom said it would be OK … if you wanted to.”
Tyler stood up and pointed at the wheelchair. “How do I work this thing?”
Jason smiled. “First, I release the brake, then you grab the handles and push. I can do it myself by pushing on the wheels, but you need the exercise.”
“Oh yeah? You’re the one who never could do chin-ups in PE,” Tyler teased, surprised he was able to kid around.
“Look whose talking!” Jason joked back, “A guy who can’t do five chin-ups!”
“I can too!” Tyler said. “I’ll prove it at the playground.” Jason looked happy.
Sister Glazen held open the door as Tyler pushed Jason outside. “I’ll come for you soon,” she promised. “I wouldn’t want you to miss lunch.”
When the boys reached the playground, they saw Ian, Juan, and Beth playing basketball. Ian dribbled the ball off his foot when he saw Tyler pushing Jason across the asphalt.
“Surprise!” Jason called with a wave.
The other kids stopped playing. Tyler worried that their glum faces would make Jason feel bad, so he blurted, “Jason thinks I can’t do five chin-ups. Excuse us while I teach him a lesson.” Tyler jogged the wheelchair to the chin-up bars.
“Prepare to apologize,” he told Jason, jumping up and grabbing the bar. His palms burned as he pulled himself up. He did ten chin-ups before collapsing on the grass.
“Not bad,” Jason said, surprised, “but you’re still not as good as me.”
“What are you talking about?” Tyler panted. “You never could do more than eight or nine.”
“That was before the accident. Now I can do twenty.”
“How can you do chin-ups when you can’t even get out of that wheelchair?” Ian asked.
“I’m not glued to this thing. Besides, chin-ups are part of my physical therapy. You wouldn’t believe all the exercises I have to do every day!”
“You exercise?” Beth was surprised.
“Of course. I have to strengthen my arms so I can do things for myself, like transfer out of my wheelchair. My physical therapist also helps me exercise my legs and back. To tell the truth, it hurts a lot sometimes, but I need to be strong so I can do all the things I want to do.”
Tyler stood up. “What do you want to do?”
Jason grinned. “I want to beat you at one-on-one basketball again.”
The other kids stared at Jason. Did he really expect to play basketball again?
Jason understood their thoughts. He began pushing himself toward the court. “Tyler, would you get the ball for me, please?”
Tyler retrieved the ball and walked toward Jason.
“No—pass it to me.”
Tyler gently lobbed the ball to Jason. “Not like that,” Jason said, firing the ball back to Tyler. “Pass it to me like you mean it.”
Tyler looked at the other kids, shrugged, then passed the ball hard. Jason caught it easily.
“See—I don’t break.” Jason wheeled himself to the free throw line. “Watch this.”
He shot the ball.
They all watched as it sailed through the air—and fell short of the basket. Tyler started after it, but Jason said, “I’ll get my own rebound.” Bending at the waist, Jason picked up the ball and shot again … and again, … but missed every time. His friends stared. Jason had never missed this often before. Jason was just as surprised. His head fell to his chest.
Beth said, “Jason, we don’t care if you can’t shoot a free throw. We’re just glad you’re here. My mom says you’re lucky to be alive.”
“Funny,” Jason replied, “I don’t feel very lucky.”
Wanting to help Jason, Tyler prayed silently. Then, remembering what the bishop had said that day in Primary—“The Lord’s will is not always our will”—he said softly, “Jason, there must be some reason Heavenly Father let this awful thing happen. Sure, it’ll be hard to learn to play basketball from a wheelchair, but you can learn.”
“Tyler’s right, Son,” said a gentle voice behind them. “You can learn.” Jason’s mother had quietly joined them. “In fact, this has been a lesson for us all—a lesson about the difference between being lucky and being blessed. You weren’t lucky to be in that accident, but you are blessed. Just look at the kind friends you have.”
Jason raised his head and looked at the people around him. He locked eyes with Tyler, then whispered, “I’m scared.”
“Me, too,” Tyler admitted softly.
Sister Glazen paused, then said, “Remember that scripture in the Book of Mormon—the one about our weaknesses becoming strengths?”
“I remember it,” Juan said. “Does that mean Jason’s legs will become strong again, since they’re weak now?”
“I don’t know what the Lord’s will is for Jason’s legs, his mother said, “but it looks like His will, at least for now, is a wheelchair.”
Jason and his friends all nodded slowly. Then Jason spoke. “I think the scripture means that Heavenly Father will strengthen me when I need it. I never really understood what faith is until now. I need Heavenly Father like I never have before.” Jason looked at his mother, then at Tyler, then at his other friends. “I need all of you, too. I need you to help me learn to play basketball from this chair.” He paused, thinking. “But what I need most is for you to keep praying for me.” His smile was small, but real.
Tyler smiled back. “Sure thing!” He turned Jason’s wheelchair toward the chin-up bar. “Right now you’re going to prove that you can beat my ten chin-ups.” His smile turned into a grin. “And tomorrow we’ll all meet back here, same time, for a little basketball practice.”