Thursday, March 26, 2009

I Choose to be Happy

Mia has a huge heart and sometimes it shows itself in the most unusual of ways. On Monday I brought home a Wii game from the library called Purr Pals. It allows players to adopt a kitten and then care for it. Mia picked out a sweet black cat and named it Panthy. It's a bit of a hard game for a little girl who can't read, so I helped her out for awhile, but then I needed to make supper so it was time for her to quit. Mia's played most of our other games, and she knows how to hook up the cords and turn the games on and off, so I let her take care of shutting it down. I had just gotten started in the summer when she came into the kitchen sobbing. "Mommy," she said, "I can't turn off the game. I just love Panthy so much, I can't say good-bye." And she was serious! I assured her she could play it again the next day, and that her game would be saved, but she just couldn't bring herself to hit the off button. I followed her back into the living room, and as I reached for the machine, she hugged the TV screen and said, "Good-bye Panthy, I love you. I'll see you tomorrow. I'll miss you." I did my best to keep the smile on my face hidden from her. The girl just blows me away.

I Choose to be Happy by Missy Jenkins & William Croyle is the story of one of the survivors of the 1997 Paducah, Kentucky school shooting. Missy was just 15 years old and attending a prayer group in the lobby of Heath High School when 14 year old Michael Carneal fired a gun, killing three and wounding five, including her. Missy was immediately paralyzed from the waist down, unable to move as she watched good friends die next to her. Missy begins her story with the tragedy of that December morning, but then gives the reader a short version of her biography, as well as that of Carneal, up to the tragedy. The story picks up again with Missy's arrival at the hospital and learning that she would probably never walk again. She captures certain moments perfectly giving the reader a clear idea of who she is as a person. I ached for her mother as she received the news that her daughter had been shot. The two had an argument the previous night and hadn't moved on from the anger. Can you imagine the fear she felt wondering if the last words she would say to her daughter were those of anger? There's a lesson in that and so much more for everyone in Missy's story. Before the end of the first 24 hours, Missy had accepted that being paralyzed was God's plan for her and she had forgiven Carneal. Both of these make her a rare human being, especially as a teenager. She says: I forgave him, and my future was enlarged. She fought through physical therapy to become as independent as possible and soon became the face of the tragedy to the nation, making appearances on Good Morning America and in People Magazine. Missy did not allow this to stop her from fulfilling her life's dreams. She is trying to prevent what happened to her from ever happening again by working as a counselor to troubled teens and giving talks all over the country. She is also married with a beautiful son. This was not an easy story for me to read. I have a 15 year old daughter of my own, and it was all too easy to imagine similar circumstances happening at her school. But it is a vitally important book for parents and students to read because Missy has so much to teach us about how to offer forgiveness, face tragedy, and overcome adversity all through relying on her faith.

This is one of the books I'm giving away in my HUGE book contest this week! If you want to get in, drop me an email before 10 pm tonight. I'll be announcing the winners tomorrow.