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Eyes Wide Open MAG
They always say, “It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye.” This expression didn't mean much to me until one day at school. We were all messing around and a student threw a pen. As I looked up, the pen hit.
It went through the center of my eye.
My life changed so suddenly – just like the story of Joseph my rabbi tells. His life changed the instant his brothers tore off his coat and threw him into a pit.
In the days and weeks after the accident, sadness, anger, and confusion enveloped me. There was an outpouring of love, support, and prayer. I received letters, meals, even e-mails of prayer chains with my name from all over the world, but still, I was very down. The doctor said I wouldn't be able to play baseball, basketball, or other sports again. The doctor also told me I'd never again see normally out of my right eye, even after surgery. An activity as basic as reading gave me a headache.
I was really negative about everything. I wasn't interested in talking to anyone or doing anything. I sat at home doing nothing. I could relate to the Torah passage I'd chanted just weeks earlier at my bar mitzvah, about the Israelites' anger and despair as they wandered through the desert for 40 years. But I felt even they were better off than I was – at least they were traveling together, while I felt lost and alone.
At my bar mitzvah, I had stood in front of the ark and heard that I was now a man. I accepted the responsibilities of Jewish manhood and somehow felt older and hopeful about my future. But after the accident, I felt like a child again – scared and vulnerable. My sense of having reached adulthood was shattered.
Then one day a family friend called to ask me for help. He needed an assistant coach for his son's Little League team. His son, who had been to many of my games (I'd played second base and outfield), thought I could help the pitchers and fielders with technique and moral support. I told him I couldn't, but he persisted.
So I went to some team practices. After four weeks, I realized that even though I couldn't do everything I used to, I could teach others about what I loved, such as how to hit and field, or in basketball how to shoot and dribble, even the great way the ball can bounce through your legs and then jump into your hand.
To be honest, before the accident, I hadn't been the most grateful or cooperative person. At home I didn't help my siblings or my parents. Rather I was focused on my own needs. But in the field, I got close to the kids I was coaching. For the first time since the accident, I felt good about myself and how I was spending my time. Off the field, I was arguing less with my parents, sisters, and friends. Having my mind on sports made me happy and a nicer person, and it put my life in perspective.
At the end of the Joseph saga, when he finally confronts his brothers who had thrown him into the pit, he says, “Do not be distressed or reproach yourselves because you sold me here – it was to save life that God sent me ahead of you.” Joseph could have held onto his anger, but instead he forgave his brothers and found purpose in his pain.
At first, I didn't think I could ever forgive the student who threw the pen. I knew she didn't mean to hurt me, but it upset me that she never apologized. My doctor told me about an group that helps people approach those who injured them in order to forgive them. I considered letting the girl know how I felt, but I realized she might just prefer to forget about the whole thing, so I decided not to contact her.
My anger was an enormous burden to carry as I tried to heal, but eventually I let it go and forgave in my heart. To help, I remind myself that it was an accident and could have happened to anyone.
Weeks after the accident, I had two operations. Stitches were put in and taken out. Unfortunately one of the stitches broke, which left a remnant in my eye. The doctors had considered a corneal transplant, but somehow, against all odds, that broken stitch has held my cornea together.
Judaism tells a story of hope. Joseph becomes Pharaoh's right-hand man. The Israelites reach the Promised Land. Jonah survives the whale. There are miracles throughout the Torah, and this is mine. I can see.
I am able to play sports as long as I wear goggles to protect my eye. My vision may never be 100 percent, but my eyes have been opened, and in my life, I see even better than before.