Each day a gift from God

Sooner or later many of us will suffer or agonize with diseases and disabilities. No one ever seeks such problems, and when they come they are always unwelcome. But how each of us copes with them is the key to survival or recovery.

Such an individual tragedy took place more than 50 years ago, but it still holds meaning to all who struggle or suffer with handicaps or disabilities.

In October 1945, Louise Lake, then in her early 30s, was the Young Women president in St. Louis, Mo. In an effort to make Church history more meaningful to her girls she organized a tour to historic Church sites in Nauvoo and Carthage in neighboring Illinois.

Part way through the trip she began to feel weary and felt pains in her body she had never experienced. In spite of growing pain she persisted through the trip, but by the time she returned home she knew something was happening to her that was not good.

Seeking medical help, she learned from the doctors that she was a victim of polio, a dreaded disease at that time. The paralysis that ensued took away the use of her legs and then her arms and hands. She lay desperately ill in the hospital and was declared all but dead by the doctors.

But in her conscious moments she struggled to remain alive and kindled within her soul a spark of determination that her life was not over, as difficult as the effects of the disease were. Priesthood blessings were given and she gradually responded to therapy treatments.

Years of medical help ensued and she suffered pains that most people could not endure. Several more times she nearly died, but she persisted to the point that she finally had enough use of her arms that she could use a wheelchair and get herself in and out of the bed into the wheelchair.

Help came to her from national organizations that were seeking to eradicate polio and other disabling diseases. Later, with gratitude for such help, she was able to go to work for them in New York and later Chicago. In these assignments she began preaching what she called the "gospel of rehabilitation."

She traveled to countries in central and South America and to many states in the United States. She maneuvered her wheelchair through crowded airports, mostly traveling alone.

In 1957 she was honored at the White House by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as the outstanding handicapped person of the year, the first woman to be so honored.

In 1971 she was persuaded to write her incomparable life's story and it was published in book form with the title Each Day a Bonus, a title she personally chose because she felt that each day of life was a gift from God that was given to her to help others.

In this book an admiring friend wrote of her: "That one who has been confined to a wheelchair for a quarter of a century and has suffered many serious afflictions and much heartache should radiate so much of healing and wholesomeness and motivate in others so much gratitude and renewed determination is unassailable witness that God can indeed 'consecrate our afflictions to our gains.' This does not happen, of course, simply because afflictions come; it happens when afflictions are endured with courage and faith." (Each Day a Bonus, p. ix.) One of the remarkable lines in the book is this: "In all I have gone through I have not murmured."

Since then, Louise Lake has passed away, but there are many like her whose handicaps or disabilities have seemed overwhelming but who have learned to live each day as a bonus.

Of this, President Gordon B. Hinckley has said: "We may know much of loneliness. We may know discouragement and frustration. We may know adversity and trouble and pain. I would hope not. But you know, and I know, that suffering comes to many. Sometimes it is mental. Sometimes it is physical. Sometimes it may even be spiritual.

"Ours is the duty to walk by faith. Ours is the duty to walk in faith, rising above the evils of the world. We are sons and daughters of God. Ours is a divine birthright. Ours is a divine destiny. We must not, we cannot sink to the evils of the world — to selfishness and sin, to hate and envy and backbiting to the 'mean and beggarly.' "You and I must walk on a higher plane. It may not be easy, but we can do it. Our great example is the Son of God whom we wish to follow." (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 7.)

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