I have enjoyed reading my friends’ status updates on Facebook this week, as they have enjoyed spring break. Friends from Wisconsin vacationed in San Antonio. Grandparents spoiled their grandbabies. Teachers took a short break from their responsibilities. Students stayed up later and slept in longer. But I have one friend in particular who did not spend his spring break at Fiesta Texas or Six Flags.
19 year old Valiente (not his real name) spent his spring break at the world renowned Mayo Clinic for neurological testing. When he was a little boy, he started experiencing seizures. I joined his parents at the university hospital during that scary time. In fact, I count that incident as one of the more humbling pastoral care experiences of my 24 year career. Unfortunately he has continued to suffer from what doctors have considered somewhat of a neurological mystery.
Valiente is an intelligent young man. And he is also an accomplished athlete. The seizures have occurred at the most inopportune times particularly as he has competed in track and field events. Some of the stories I have heard in that regard has been truly heart wrenching. Consequently he spent this past week at the Mayo Clinic instead of running and working out.
I have few opportunities to interact with Valiente at this stage in his life. We now live about 5 hours away from each other. But last summer I was privileged to spend some one evening with him and his family. His maturity was striking. He eagerly engaged the adults in conversation and also paid attention to the little kids. That is just impressive.
I hate it that Valiente spent his spring break being poked, prodded, and interrogated by total strangers. But I have a hunch that the spring break of 2011 will shape the character of this fine young man. This humbling experience of dealing with seizures blended with his exceptional social skills will qualify him to serve other people in powerful ways. I know Fiesta Texas is a lot of fun, but it simply does not have the character shaping qualities of a week long visit to The Mayo Clinic. I pray that the neurological issues will be resolved successfully, but I also pray for God to put people in Valiente’s sphere of influence. He will make a difference in their lives. He is a brave young man. That is why I have given him the name “Valiente.”