I used to appoint myself leader of the youth group in the churches I have served. I have always enjoyed teenagers, and in the cases where I have had some success they seemed to accept me almost as one of them. There is an important line that one should not cross. One loses all ability to actually lead the group when you become just another chum. Adults who wish to be good parents for their teens often make this mistake. When you know how to play with the kids, and yet maintain their respect as the authority figure, that balance yields the greatest success I have experienced.
So here I was, the leader of a group of teens at a mountain cabin at a ski resort in northern California. I was the owner of the belly sled, and it was my responsibility to make sure the hill we had chosen was good for sledding and yet safe. So, of course, I demanded to go down first. Now you must be told that this was first thing in the morning and there was a lot of snow. But the secret that had escaped my notice is that this snow had been slushy the night before, and now with overnight freeze all that slush had become ice. To complicate matters a bit, it seems that someone had been tobogganing the night before our arrival, and left toboggan shaped curls in the slushy snow. Now those curls were sheer ice. Oh yeah, one more complication is the fact that the run was curved just enough so I did not see these walls of sheer ice until I reached breakneck speed and turned the corner.
The last thing I remembered was asking myself the question, "Can I maneuver the sled between those trees and those walls of ice?" Later the kids told me that I looked like Evel Knievel flying over the wall of ice with snow flying everywhere. I certainly do not remember that. The next thing I remember was waking up lying flat on my back with these young faces looking down at me. Someone asked, "Are you alright Mr. Keller?" But I could only answer honestly and with harsh breathy voice, "I don't know." Well in due time the kids helped me to my feet, and I was hurting but stunned by shock. One thing I knew immediately: my collarbone was broken. It felt as though my shoulder and arm were about to slide right off my body to the ground. My son, Calvin, flagged down a passing car, and we rode to the local first aid station. I deduced that the bossy nurse that ran the place dispensed medicine as she saw fit, and the visiting Doctor would approve her actions when he came around to her station. At any rate she gave me a shot of Demerol, and told me that I should come back for a second shot when my wife arrived to take me home.
By the time I had the second shot of Demerol I guarantee I was feeling no pain. In fact I scared Barbara all the way home because I kept falling asleep, and she kept waking me for fear that I had a concussion and might slip into a coma.
When we arrived at the hospital in Modesto, they asked me in the ER what was wrong with me. I told them that I had broken my collar bone. They x-rayed my collar bone and confirmed my report. I was fitted with a brace and given a prescription for codeine. When I protested that I really did not need the codeine, the nurse simply asked, "How many shots of Demerol did you say you had?" I said, "Two." She said, "You'd better get the prescription filled." Now I neglected to tell you that this happened on New Year's Eve, which happens to be my daughter's birthday. She had friends over for a sleepover that night. And if my poor wife did not have her hands full enough, our youngest son, Jonathan, broke out with chicken pox that night.
One of the most memorable things that happened, however, was that every one of my elders came over to the house to see how I was, and we all prayed in the new year together. They were dear brothers. After we had said goodnight to the last of them, I had to admit that I was beginning to hurt rather dramatically. I was glad the nurse insisted that I fill my prescription.