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A Life Changing Experience
by Stephen A. Peterson 
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A Life Changing Experience
© 2008


Stephen A. Peterson

Alexis Talton was fourteen years old and when family, friends or strangers saw her she would always be seen with a BIG, bright smile. This may not appear so unusual except Alexis suffered from brain damage acquired in an automobile accident nearly four years earlier. That accident left Alexis paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. She also experienced speech difficulties at times making her smile a true reflection of her personality. The accident though never stopped Alexis. Whether at school, church or at the mall, if Alexis was there, she would navigate her power chair wearing that big, sunny smile and honking her horn to the tune of “Boomer Sooner”. Much of the time those who came in contact with Alexis did not say a word to her. Why they did not do so remains a mystery to her parents, teachers and friends who knew her. Perhaps it was the fact she was in a power chair. Or maybe it was the scars on her face that distinguished her from other fourteen year olds. Whatever it was Alexis would break the ice with an Okie “howdy,” “how ya’ll be,” or “ya-hoo!”

Now a high school freshman, Alexis was so excited about finally going to school at Bishop McGuinness. For her, it was a chance to make new friends, wear a green plaid uniform, and to go to basketball games during the winter months—a game she loved. However, what high school meant was going to classes and someday becoming a dentist. So she wanted to become the best student she could. “No problem,” she thought. “I was a pretty good student at John Carroll Elementary School before and after my accident. I’ll be okay if I work hard.”

Alexis’ first class was English. Her teacher was said to be a good one but by far one of the toughest in the school. Mrs. O’Reilly’s assignment was to write four paragraphs over a topic of the student’s choice. Because it was the first composition for all of the students, Mrs. O’Reilly decided to weigh the assignment just 15 points. Having been a veteran teacher of twenty-four years, Mrs. O’Reilly did not believe her students would perform well on their very first high school level writing assignment.

Mrs. O’Reilly covered grammar, syntax and sentence structure with her young freshmen students. Now it was time for the assignment to begin. Alexis sat in her chair working hard to write that composition to the best of her ability. She checked her grammar, made sure the syntax was correct and her sentence structure was in accordance with the rules of English. Within thirty minutes, Alexis finished all four paragraphs perfectly. She was one of only give students who did as Mrs. O’Reilly walked the aisles reviewing her students’ progress. Impressed by Alexis’ work, Mrs. O’Reilly asked that she read her composition to the rest of the class. Struggling to move up to the front of the class, Alexis read her composition. The topic: “Why she received ugly stares and criticism from others.

When Alexis finished reading her composition, a fellow student asked and got permission to ask her a question.

“Alexis, why did you work so hard at writing your composition? I like many of us hardly did anything. It’s just a small assignment. It really wasn’t worth much. It was only worth 15 miserable points. That’s not worth it to most of us here in this classroom.”

Mrs. O’Reilly stood before the classroom amazed by the freshman’s response. She then turned her face to hear Alexis’s response.

Alexis took her time before she spoke a word. She then said, “Because I want so much to be like everyone else in this school, classroom. I don’t want to be treated special, looked upon as weird, or laughed at. I’d like to laugh with everyone. Some of you are sorry for what happed to me. Thank you for that.”

Silence fell on the whole room. Then another student spoke up, “Alexis, if you knew some of the things we’ve done, I’ll bet you wouldn’t like us. We’re teenagers! Trouble is the name of the game for many of us. You sure you want to be our friend?”

“Sure.” Alexis said as a big smile spread the length and breadth of her scarred face. “I can love you for who you are! I do not have to agree to or do some of the things you do. Yes, you are a teenager so am I. The one thing I’ve learned from my accident is that you are not assured of tomorrow. I almost died and, in fact, should have died. But as I lay on an operating table, I saw the face of Jesus. He smiled at me. He smiled at me bleeding from His head and face. No matter how scarred I am, I will smile because He smiled at me. I was given a chance to be here, to do my best for His glory and be a happy teenager. I will accept you as you are. Will you do the same for me?”

Alexis got her 15 points that day. She also got the love and respect of her classmates and Mrs. O’Reilly. Alexis reflects Jesus in many ways. All He asks is that you be His friend. He will accept you just how you are—tired, mischievous or any imperfections you may have. Once you come to know Him, He will change your life forever!

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