What a 9-Year-Old Taught Me About Perspective

It happened on one Kentucky summer day.

My high school football team was in the middle of three-a-days. That meant we practiced three times a day in the sweltering heat for two weeks—morning, noon and late afternoon. Over time, the drills, conditioning, and tackling began to wear us down. We complained to our coach about how hot and tired we were, how we couldn’t push ourselves to the limit any more.

So he gave us a break. On one afternoon, he took us on a field trip instead of holding practice. We had no idea where we were going, but it didn’t matter—we were thrilled to get out of the heat! On the bus ride, we hollered and joked around together, acting like a bunch of typical teenage boys who’d just been rescued from the torture of another workout.

The bus took us to Lexington, Kentucky, to Shriners Hospital for Children. Now, keep in mind, my only recollection of Shriners was the circus that came to town every year. I had no clue that my life was about to change. Once we arrived, our coach paired us up and assigned us a room to go visit. Our only instruction was to spend 30 minutes with the person in that room.

I will never forget what I saw when I walked in. Lying in a hospital bed was a little boy, who was probably 8 or 9 years old. Where two limbs should have been, I saw only one.

My brain struggled to process what my eyes had seen. Kids don’t belong in hospital rooms, and they are definitely supposed to have two legs. I was confused and angry. What had happened to this little guy? It wasn’t fair!

That boy was excited to see us, to have some company other than nurses and doctors. He was amazed that a couple of goofy teenagers from an area football team would come and hang out with him. We talked sports and joked around about nothing important. Then the conversation turned.

He said, “I wish I could run again. I would try to run all day. And I wouldn’t get tired.”

I was speechless. Shocked and stunned. Dumbfounded. And a little bit embarrassed. Just days before, I’d complained about the drills, the running, the heat, and the exhaustion. And here lay a little boy who wanted to run. All day.

When the team got back on the bus an hour later, the tone had shifted and the mood was heavy. Everyone had seen something that had changed their perspective. For the first time, I thought about what I got to do and what other kids couldn’t do. I didn’t complain about the heat anymore. And when I ran, I wasn’t just running for myself. I was running for him, too.

What’s Your Perspective?

Even today, I look at my circumstances through a different lens. There’s always something to complain about. I can choose to focus on what I don’t have and what I can’t do, or I can choose to be grateful and use the many gifts God has given me.  

That experience also taught me to be intentional about each day because it’s all I have. I can’t control anything in my past or my future. But when I combine enough intentional days, I can make progress and reach my goals, whether as a businessman, speaker, husband or father.

The same applies to you. You choose your perspective. You can complain about your limits and challenges, or you can focus on what you can do. You can plan for the future, but live each day intentionally because you know you’re not guaranteed any more.

And if you combine those purposeful days, you’ll see your life change. I guarantee it.