KACI KNOWS ABOUT RESILIENCE –
Happy Easter, everyone! Christ is risen!
We might even say “Christ is resilient”!
Especially in these days, I am thinking about a delightful trait within nature we call “resilience”. Look it up and you will see it defined as: “the ability of a substance or object (or person) to spring back into shape; elasticity”. Think of rubber bands, or juvenile birds when they fall out of the nest. I also read that in the construction field, resilience is the ability to absorb damage without suffering complete failure and is an objective of design, in buildings as well as in communities.
God raising Christ from the dead is the ultimate statement of Love’s resilience. But notice, following Christ’s resurrection, he didn’t simply “spring back” into who he was before. Life’s turmoils change us, but they do not destroy us, even when we die. I think that’s the Gospel’s good news, in this world and the next. That’s the heart of the Easter message.
So, how is your resilience doing these days, managing life and relationships in a mask-wearing, distance-keeping Stay Home, Stay Safe world? How are you coping when someone you know becomes ill or even dies from the virus? I am amazed at the strength I see in people coping these days with isolation, reaching out to the elder at the end of your street, cheering health workers, investing in charities that deliver respirators to neighbors in other lands. Signs of resilience, certainly!
But I think the real test of resilience for all of us these days is not to simply return to the way things were. Our “springing back” could just maybe lead to our being wiser, valuing people over things, seeing our own welfare bound up with that of our neighbors’. But maybe we’ll learn nothing despite ourselves. This forced slowing we are in now is leading many to question our drive to acquire more stuff, and instead to pay more attention to God and neighbor and the natural world.
I have been interested in how one particular young person at Central, Kaci Sowers, has lately been learning about resiliency. Kaci, now a 10th grader, was in our confirmation class a couple years back. In a recent battle with a virus that attacked her heart (not COVID-19 related), she has learned a thing or two about resilience not all 16-year-olds learn. Here is an exchange we shared this week:
CL: Kaci, you are a strong young person. Many people would be surprised to hear that you were ill with a serious disease that came on suddenly. Can you tell us a bit about your illness, how you contracted it, & how it affected you?
KS: I got a virus that attacked my heart with fluids. When I got to the emergency room I blacked out a couple of times cause not enough oxygen was getting to my brain because my heart couldn’t get it there cause it was being suffocated with my own fluids. When I got there I thought it was just a really bad sickness and I would get better but I was actually dying because not enough oxygen was getting to my body. I was very weak and cold when I got to the ER. It has affected me by no sports for a couple months and keeping my heart rate below 130 which is a big change because I was always working out and big into softball.
CL: What are some of the helpful things the doctors & nurses did for you?
KS: The nurses were soooo amazing. I miss them every day I’m away from the hospital. They were super helpful and so nice. They were very encouraging of me and kept me calm when I was about to go to surgery. They are just the most amazing people in the world.
CL: How has your family been part of your healing process?
KS: They have been very supportive and helpful to me. And they make sure I don’t go above 130.
CL: What have been the scary parts of your illness?
KS: Well the scariest part wasn’t going into surgery because I just knew that that surgery was going to make me feel better so I was like let’s get this surgery done because I was feeling so nauseous. The scariest part was the thought of never being able to play softball anymore, the doctors predict that I will so “Yay!”
CL: What have been ways you’ve come to greater gratitude or even become more aware of God & Love thru your ordeal?
KS: I am definitely more grateful for everything in my life. I think God gave me this opportunity to show everyone how strong I really can be.
CL: I’ve heard you say you now have to live a “new normal” as part of your healing; can you say more about that?
KS: I don’t really think of this as a new normal. I see this as a chance to get stronger and to be a better person.
CL: Is there anything good that has come out of this for you?
KS: Yes definitely. I got to meet great nurses and doctors. I got to learn more about my heart. I got to come back from heart failure only being 15 and that’s pretty awesome.
CL: Some of us know you are a strong athlete; do you now think of being “strong” in new ways? How?
KS: It’s just another thing that I can survive, It’s another thing that I can beat, sometimes you got to be weak to become stronger. By this experience I’ve become more confident in myself and mentally stronger.
CL: What advice would you have for someone coping with the COVID-19 virus, or a friend of theirs who wants to be supportive?
KS: You’ll get through it, don’t give up, don’t be angry, be grateful. Life isn’t ending, it’s just beginning.
Let’s hold on to Kaci’s line “Sometimes you got to be weak to become stronger”, for that is at the heart of spiritual resilience. That is what shakes us out of ourselves, into a bigger more daring life that involves others’ welfare intertwined with our own. Or as the writer of Philippians from the Bible advises, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Perhaps, even now, we are growing wiser thru this pandemic, even while we don’t yet know the future. Now that’s resiliency!
On the Way,
Kaci Sowers is daughter to Karin Chrostek; sister to Charlie and Sam; granddaughter to Dave and Sue Chrostek.