Monday, August 8, 2011

Hunchbacked Knuckles

Most everybody I know has either broken a leg, an arm, an ankle or something major that cramps their lifestyle and requires a cast, sympathy and a little TLC (healing by R&B).  Somehow in my 30+ years on this planet I’ve managed to evade any major breakage; I say “major” because I have actually broken two bones in my body, simultaneously. 

During the early part of springtime of my year in 7th grade at West Cary Middle, everyone seemed to be “jamming” their fingers.  By jamming I’m not referring to creative ways of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, nor inducing the short-lived fad of “Marley-Fingers”, but rather the condition described by as the following:

In a typical jam, a finger joint is forced together, with twisting of the joint involved as well. This compression and torquing often leads to dislocation, which can resolve itself within seconds or might persist until medical attention is received.

I don’t know why it seemed to be happening all of a sudden, but during that time, all the boys were walking around with two of their fingers taped together.  The question would be asked, “What happened to your fingers?” and the response would be given in a mostly non-chalant manner with a dash of pride, “Oh, I jammed it playing [insert any given sport here].”  It was like they were part of an elite club or organization: the Afflicted Athletes.  It seemed to be that if you weren’t somehow injured while playing you were doing it wrong.

Eventually the wheel of fortune spun around to me.  It happened during P.E., playing basketball.  My team was on defense and the kid with the ball came my way; I tried to steal the ball.  Instead, I jammed my fingers.  I shouted in surprise and pain – this was a new, uncomfortable sensation.  The injured digits were my ring and middle fingers on my right hand.  I felt an odd mixture of pain and numbness and I couldn’t bend them.  I told the coach, he got ‘em taped up, and it was official: I was part of the club…for about a day or so.  Most of the other guys wore their tape for days on end.  I guess I wasn’t as intense or elite because my fingers were back to normal two days after the incident and I couldn’t write very well without Ringy and Middleman helping the effort (what, you don’t name your fingers?  I don’t either, I just wanted an interesting way to refer to them).

Well, I thought after that I had paid my dues.  About a week later, after school, some of us kids were playing basketball to kill time while we waited for our rides.  I was on defense again and a fellow named Dave had the ball.  We were under the basket, I went to steal it, but he was too fast.  Instead of my left palm going around the ball, the middle and ring fingers of my left hand hit it, dead on, perpendicular to the surface area.  The odd pain I had felt a week earlier had returned, but this time it brought some friends – that is to say, it hurt a heckuva lot more. 

Almost instantly, the knuckles below the distal phalanges on my left ring and middle fingers began to swell (I used to watch Bones – and I still use Google).  They didn’t turn black and blue; they just got big.  I didn’t get them taped up until I got home because there weren’t any coaches present with access to the “special healing tape.”

Now, even though the left-hand doppelgangers of Ringy and Middleman hurt a lot more than their right-hand counterparts, I figured it’d just be a couple days before they healed.  A couple weeks later, with a small reduction of pain and no reduction of swelling, I started to worry a little.

“Hey, dad, I think I broke my knuckles.”

“Let me see them.”  I showed him the hunchbacked joints.  “If they were broken they’d be black and blue.”

“They still hurt and look at them!” I persisted.

“I wouldn’t worry about it.”

At the time it didn’t really bother me, and to this day, it still doesn’t really.  But I have learned something from that experience that has followed me into adulthood: You’ve got to be your own advocate.  When there’s something you need, something you’re going for, you can’t count on someone else to stand up for you.  And to the Christians in the audience, I’m not talking about Christ’s advocacy for us, nor the Spirit’s intercession. I’m talking more akin to how Paul stood up for himself in Acts 22:25.

Sometimes someone will stand up for you, but you can’t count on that because you don’t know if anyone will.  If you’re in need of healing and you’re denied care, don’t give up; say, “Hey!  I’m bleeding through my band-aids here!”  Or, in another vein, if you’re pursuing a dream, don’t just give up at the first sign of resistance.  Going to college, fighting for a love, enlisting in the military – all such things are worthy and noble pursuits; and they’re usually not very easy. 

A few months later I was at an orthopedist’s office with my dad and sister (she was having a follow-up examination for a broken ankle).  While they were waiting, I went and found another doctor.  I showed him my knuckles and explained what happened.  Without hesitation he said, “Those knuckles were broken.” 

Now, if only I had persisted with my dad a few months earlier they could have been treated.  Granted, they’re distal knuckles; it really wasn’t a big deal.  But what about the next time I’d need to stand up for myself when it would be a big deal?  I have my hunchbacked knuckles, the deformed Ringy and Middleman saying, “Don’t just roll over and take it up the tailpipe; fight!!”

And that’s what I’d encourage you to do.  There is a line between being your own advocate and being a jerk, but for some reason our society has fought against standing up for yourself for so long and so hard that a great deal many of us are just jellyfish, floating along in the currents.  When Opposition says, “You’re just not good enough, okay?”  respond with that rarest of vocabulary beasts: “No.”

Stand up for yourself – you’re worth it.

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