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(This is an excerpt from the book I Hope You Know How Much I Love You: And Other Advice for a Happier Life.)

I have a dear friend whom I met when I was a young college student freshly home from my mission. She taught me how to teach teenagers. Her name is Kathy Schlendorf. Kathy teaches junior high school English and French in Provo, Utah. I asked Kathy once, “Now what do you teach again?” And she said, “Manners, mostly.” Kathy is a delight.

Kathy was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and was broadsided by a driver who wasn’t paying attention. The top of her car impacted her head and peeled off much of her scalp, and her pelvis was broken in eight places, among other injuries. For seven days, the doctor told Kathy’s husband that she would not make it through the night. On the eighth day, Kathy opened her eyes. She realized that she was in a hospital, and her first thought was, “That’s funny, I don’t remember being pregnant.” She turned and saw her husband sitting there, and asked, “What happened?”

Eventually, Kathy was allowed to go home. I used to think that when they sent you home from the hospital, it meant you were all better—back to 100 percent. Then I donated a kidney, and I discovered that they release you when you are barely able to survive.

Anyway, Kathy had a little boy who, not understanding her situation, asked her to get him breakfast one day shortly after she got home. Kathy made her way, with the aid of a walker (remember, her pelvis was broken in eight places), to the cupboard. Then she realized she could not lift either hand from the walker or she would collapse. My dear friend Kathy bowed her head and began to cry as she realized her “rehab” had barely begun. Then Kathy said the Spirit spoke to her, with some fascinating words: “Kathy, you are a physical wreck.” (At this point you’re thinking, “Wow, that’s blunt,” but the Spirit wasn’t finished.) “Kathy, you are a physical wreck. Now, you can either be a physical wreck and an emotional wreck, or you can just be a physical wreck.”

Over the years, we have heard it a thousand times—we can’t choose what happens to us, but we can choose how to respond to what happens to us. I’m sure that Kathy had heard it too. But in this moment, this difficult, dark, painful moment, the Spirit shed a burst of light. You can choose your response. Kathy had every right to be an emotional wreck. Her life was turned upside down by a careless driver! She was in pain! She was a physical wreck! But she used her agency to choose her response. The way my friend Kathy, who has now had numerous “dark threads” in her life, has responded to her trials has been an inspiration to me, and perhaps to you too as I’ve shared her experience.

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