I am thankful

Gratitude: it’s not just for Thanksgiving

WRITTEN BY JULIE SCHILLINGS

Skylar and Mike Page

Skylar and Mike Page

Gratitude flows freely during good times. The truth is, gratefulness can be transformational during life’s most difficult challenges as well. Illustrated by three different stories with a common theme of gratitude, we are reminded to be thankful in good times and in bad.

Sky Alone

18-year-old Skylar Page, like many teenage boys, loves basketball, sings in the high-school school choir and enjoys making the girls laugh. Skylar is anything but typical in other ways. He was born with Down’s Syndrome. Skylar’s parents, Paula and Mike Page, along with his four siblings, are grateful for the impact that Skylar has made in their lives. Paula says, “knowing Skylar makes you a better person. I am more sensitive to others and their needs. Our whole family is.”

Skylar’s father, Mike, shared his thoughts in writing: “There are times when my heart hurts for him. He is so much like other teens but enough different to create social division. I know kids can be cruel and it is not always intentional... Somewhere within his soul is this overwhelming, forgiving love. Like God, he forgives and forgets. Someday maybe mankind will figure out that the scientific explanation for Down’s Syndrome, an extra 21st chromosome, is a gift. I believe God gifted Skylar and those like him with something extra. In many circles he is considered to be lacking something. I know better. Not because he’s my son, but because I have experienced his life. From child-like faith and actions, to times of teenage angst, and often profound statements on life; I have seen God’s providence through him.

Not only have I been blessed through Skylar but also through the many ‘handicapped’ people that his life has acquainted me with. Each one is a unique creation of God’s and created in His image.

When Sky was a baby, someone told us that God gives special kids to special people. I’ve heard that many times since and experienced it. On the other hand I have seen special kids being raised in poor conditions, both physically and mentally. I’ve seen some that were unloved and mistreated, even by family. I will never know in this earthly life why God allows this to happen. Maybe it’s to make people think and possibly get involved. Whatever the reason, I know that Sky has been used to teach us and others. I believe his life has great value, and God has gifted him beyond measure so that he can help others. Others like him, meaning the whole human race. We are all more alike than different. It is my hope and dream that hearts and minds around this world will be moved by The Sky Man to take action and erase the prejudice. Please do your part.”

Austin and Julie Breitenstein

Austin and Julie Breitenstein

It’s a long road — keep your eyes on it

A teenager, athlete and honor student nearly lost his life — over a text message. After a night out with friends, 19-year- old Austin Breitenstein was driving to his ex-girlfriend’s house, when at 1:52 a.m. he checked a text message. Records show that only 4 seconds later 9-1-1 was called with reports of an accident on southbound I-235.

In the split second that Austin took his eyes off of the road, he had crashed his pickup. Austin was not wearing his seat belt. He over corrected and was ejected head-first through the windshield. His truck continued to roll as the unresponsive teenager lay on the highway.

At the time, Austin was a college soccer player in his first semester at Friends University. He was outgoing with a lively sense of humor.

"You need to put your phone down because you want to live today." — Julie Breitenstein

The traumatic brain injuries Austin received in the crash and the fractured vertebrae changed his life forever. Austin’s neurosurgeon performed a bilateral craniectomy to allow both sides of his brain to swell. Over the next 6 months, Austin had multiple surgeries before returning to his home in Wichita.

"He reverted to infancy stage," said Julie Breitenstein, Austin's mother. "He had to learn how to walk, eat and speak again." It has been a long road for Austin and his family since his accident happened nearly 4 years ago. Their days are filled with personal training sessions, physical therapy, speech and occupational therapy. The journey is far from over, but the Breitensteins are thankful that Austin survived - grateful for a second chance.

With that second chance, Julie promises to do whatever she can to prevent others from making the same mistake as Austin. The message is simple, “You need to put your phone down, because you want to live today.” Julie’s message is not directed only to teens, but also to moms and dads who read e-mails, texts or browse through play lists and photos while their kids are “safely buckled” in the back seat. “Texting and driving affects everyone and anyone without discrimination,” reminds Julie.

Austin and Julie speak on behalf of AT&T and the Highway Patrol when they share Austin’s story with schools, social groups and law makers across the state. “We are not going to change everybody’s habits,” Julie recognizes, “But we can make an impact by making people think twice. We can save just one life, one mom, one sister, one father, one child... the phones have got to be put down. Period.”

 
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