One day at his elementary school my youngest brother, Dale, was hit in the shin with a baseball bat. It was painful but it didn’t warrant staying home from school the next day. But even with time, the pain didn’t go away. One day Dale was sent home from school in tears, the pain having become almost unbearable. We were living in Monterrey, Mexico, at the time and my father was away from home on business.
My mother took Dale to see the doctor who promptly took x-rays of the injured leg. After studying the pictures the doctor asked if he could visit with both parents. “My husband is away for a couple of days,” said my worried mother. “Just as soon as he returns,” said the doctor, “I want to talk with both of you.”
Immediately upon my Dad’s return to Monterrey, my parents hurried to see the doctor. He showed them the x-rays and told them that Dale had a large tumor in his shin bone “the size of a large banana.” He solemnly announced that he feared that the tumor was malignant and, in order to prohibit the spread of the cancer, he thought it best to amputate the boy’s leg immediately. My parents were devastated.
After much prayer and heartfelt soul-searching, they decided, before taking the recommended action, to seek a second opinion. The second doctor, a specialist, took more pictures of Dale’s leg, consulted with others and then called my parents in for a conference.
“It does not look good,” he said. “However, there is a chance the tumor is not malignant. And even if it is,” he said, “due to its size and appearance, I think even amputation would be too late to save the boy’s life. Either way,” he said, “I would not remove the boy’s leg.”
During the subsequent surgery, the tumor was scraped out leaving the shin bone a mere hollow shell. Bone chips were removed from Dale’s hip and they were used to fill the void in the hollowed out bone. “When I saw the mass in the boy’s leg bone,” said the surgeon, “my heart sank. It looked very bad. However, when we ran tests on the mass it turned out to be benign—it was not cancerous.”
My parents went to their knees in gratitude for blessings they attributed to the goodness and mercy of a loving Father in Heaven. “What if we had simply gone with the opinion of the first doctor?” asked my mother. The very thought made her shudder. Dale is now 62 years old and walks without a limp. He has a devoted wife, four married children and thirteen grandchildren. Most of them gather regularly at Dale’s house on Sunday afternoons to bask in each other’s company.
I wonder how many of us are content with first opinions, first impressions and first impulses. How many of us seek out other opinions or more information before taking action and making judgments that could have far reaching and lasting effects? How many of us are willing to check out the truthfulness of rumors or gossip prior to forming an opinion whether it is in the realm of religion, politics, education or some other discipline?
I know I have failed many times to gather the necessary information before taking action and I have lived to regret it. I also know that “Storms Bring out the Eagles but the Little Birds Run for Cover.” Helen Steiner Rice observed:
“When the storms of life gather darkly ahead, I think of these wonderful words I once read, and I say to myself as threatening clouds hover, ‘don’t fold up your wings and run for cover.’ But like the eagle spread wide your wings and soar far above the trouble life brings, for the eagle knows that the higher he flies the more tranquil and brighter become the skies…
“And there is nothing in life God ever asks you to bear that we can’t soar above on the wings of prayer, and in looking back over the storms you passed through, you’ll find you gained strength and new courage, too. For in facing life’s storms with an eagle’s wings, you can fly far above earth’s small petty things.” (The Latter Day Sampler, p.299)