In early 1991 I was involved in a car accident that left most of my body paralyzed. Since then, I have had a lot of time to compare my life before that incident with my life now. In some ways it is similar. Yet there are numerous differences.

Before my accident I had the attitude that I should try to perfect the four basic aspects of my life. Ranked in order of importance at that time, they were (1) physical ability, (2) mental ability, (3) spirituality, and (4) emotional stability.

Now the order of importance of these four vital cornerstones of my life has changed.

Before the accident, my perspective was that of an 18-year-old athlete who thought he knew everything. Although I grew up in a religious family and felt good about my beliefs, spirituality was not my top priority. Instead, physical strength, speed, and quickness were more important to me than either religion or school. I felt that going to school was a necessity simply to remain eligible for sports.

Although I did fairly well academically, I often found myself practicing for the football team or the baseball team rather than studying for a test or completing a class assignment. I had academic goals and important religious goals, but these came after my athletic aspirations. The experiences I’ve had as a result of the accident have helped me better understand what is really important.

Since 16 February 1991, the day I fell asleep driving my truck, I have had the opportunity to look at life from a completely different viewpoint. I have had a lot of time to think about and adjust my priorities. I still love athletics and believe they have the potential to build character. But they are not the most important thing in my life anymore. I recognize now that my religion, my family, and my friends are the foundation for my happiness, not winning at sports.

My mind is the most precious asset I have, and I realize that it must be exercised even as my legs or my lungs were exercised in athletics. I am grateful for the opportunity I have to attend college and gain knowledge. While I have slowed down physically, I have accelerated spiritually and mentally.

Realizing that obtaining knowledge and increasing spirituality are ongoing processes, I believe that my new priorities are helping me achieve those elusive goals.

Not many people have the chance to live life from two very different points of view. I am grateful I have had this opportunity. It has helped me place my spirituality, mental capacity, emotional stability, and physical ability in order of their importance.

Photograph by Jed Clark