By Tom

I won’t apologize for being an avid golfer. I caught the bug many years ago. It’s in my bloodstream. I’ll never lose it. I love being outside in open space away from the rat race of everyday life. It gives me time to myself, alone with my thoughts. In that way, I suppose that it is a bit therapeutic for me. I always enjoyed competition, both competing against others and the internal competition of striving to perfect my own skill. A pursuit that I fully understand is in vain, unless your name is Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus.

So it will come as no surprise that I occupy 30 minutes of my BNSF Metra train ride to and from Chicago everyday reading Golf Digest or Golf Magazine. During a recent commute into the city I was enjoying the August 2014 edition of Golf Magazine when I turned to a story about a gentleman named Will Robins. I read how Will was an aspiring 26 year old PGA Tour pro. He had recently married his wife Amanda who was 27 years old at the time. They had decided to spend their honeymoon enjoying three weeks in Thailand. One day during their honeymoon, they decided to spend some time on Ko Phi Phi Don, an island off the coast near Phuket, Thailand. While inside their hotel on December 26th, a 9.3 magnitude earthquake about 250 miles away triggered a tsunami which created waves reaching two stories high. The waves pummeled the hotel and Will and Amanda nearly drowned while Amanda was severely cut up and had her pelvis shattered. Will suffered a concussion, a broken clavicle, dozens of puncture wounds to his body, and nearly had his right ear torn from his head.

By some miracle and with the help of a generous boatman, Will and Amanda survived the Tsunami that claimed the lives of 283,000 people across fourteen Indian Ocean nations. Needless to say, the physical and mental injuries that this event caused brought about the end of Will’s dream of a career as a PGA Tour professional golfer. When he recovered, Will pursued a career in the golf industry as a golf instructor. He now has over 300 clients in the Sacramento, CA area.

I couldn’t help but think what an impressive recovery from a life changing experience this was. I then read the last two paragraphs of the piece:

“Robins radiates contentment because he has made peace with the wave that took away his dreams. ‘It’s a great life,’ he says. ‘It’s not anything I could have ever foreseen – it’s better.’

‘Everyone has a tsunami in their life. Maybe it’s cancer, or a bankruptcy, or the death of a loved one. But there will always be a storm. The question is how you deal with it.’”

I closed the magazine reflected for a moment on my own life. I said to myself, “I wonder when I’m going to have my tsunami?”

I disembarked the train and began my walk across the Loop to my office. During my walk, I stopped dead in my tracks and thought, “Wait a minute. I’ve already experienced my tsunami! Jack is my tsunami!”

I have a beautiful 6 year old boy with Down syndrome named Jack. I’ll admit that my life was turned upside down when a delivery room doctor told me that it appeared that Jack had Down syndrome. Unfortunately, my view that day was that one of the best days of my life (the birth of my son) also became the worst day of my life (the day that I learned that my son won’t play quarterback at Stanford, will suffer through far too may doctor’s appointments and hospital stays, won’t talk until he is 6 years old, and will be treated as “different” by the rest of society for his entire life). This was truly a tsunami for me.

But like Will, I have grown over the past 6 years to radiate contentment. It is a great life. It’s not anything I could’ve foreseen – it’s better. Jack is a wonderful kid. He’s very physically active and loves sports. At age 6 he already hits a golf ball pretty darned well. His speech development is coming along nicely, and he is nearly potty trained. In spite of his protest, I try to get him on a bike (with training wheels) every day. He gets better at it with every try. He starts 1st grade this year and his teachers, aides, and classmates love him. He has a smile and personality that will melt your heart.

Will stated that everybody has a tsunami in their life, THE QUESTION IS HOW YOU DEAL WITH IT!

I’m telling myself that the fact that it took me about 15 minutes after reading his story to realize that Jack was my tsunami, that I must be dealing with it pretty well. I helped start up a Dads Appreciating Down Syndrome (D.A.D.S) group and when time permits, I try to participate in events sponsored by all of the Down syndrome support groups in Chicagoland. I’ve become a much more compassionate human being and when I walk down the street I notice people and situations that I would’ve never noticed before. My tsunami has made me a better person.

Jack’s diagnosis certainly did shake up my life in a not insignificant way. But we all have choices in life as to how we respond to crises and how we deal with them. We can wallow in pity and become angry at the world for our unforeseen circumstance. Or we can view our situation as an opportunity. An opportunity to experience a deep level of patience, understanding, and love that we didn’t know we had inside of us. An opportunity to learn things about ourselves and our attitudes. An opportunity to change first our own attitudes and then the attitudes of others. An opportunity to leave society a better place than we found it.

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