Dwight Eisenhower – Almost Losing His Leg as a Boy

Walking to a Better Life

“Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.” Exodus 17:6 KJV

My wife has one of those Fitbits. It’s a little magical band that fits on her arm, much like a watch. Somehow it is able to count the number of steps she has taken throughout the day. The goal is to get to at least to 10,000 steps. I guess you can live forever if you can walk 10,000 steps a day.

Walking may be a real good all-around exercise. For the most part, unless you are going up a steep hill or some steps, it’s not usually too strenuous. Walking can also relax your spirits a little bit, especially when you are walking in areas where nature is present.

We all have those moments where we get a little stressed. Sometimes it would probably do us some good to, in those stressful situations, just leave the stressful situation and take a little walk to settle us down a little bit. Sometimes, like at work, it’s just not possible to get up and leave. Sometimes stress can get the best of us and our reactions are sometimes not the wisest choices we could be making.

There have been many times I have let stress get the best of me. In many of those situations I should have just gone for a little walk to cool down. Then I might have been able to better handle the situation. Although I am so much better than I used to be, I still have my moments when I let stress get the best of me.

Probably one of the most stressful times in one’s life is when one feels they haven’t been treated fairly. That in itself doesn’t always trigger extreme reactions, though. We have all been treated unfairly at one time or another. Most of the time we just huddle into groups that are suffering the same fate or we find a sympathetic ear willing to listen to our whining.

Where stress seems to get the best of us is when there is no sympathetic ear to present our case. The other, possibly worse, stressful environment is one in which someone takes the other side or just blows it off as “no big deal.” Those are the real tests as to how you handle stress.

One of the greatest teachers of stress control is loss. When you lose friends, jobs, or cause damage to property, yourself or others, it should be a wakeup call that your reactions might need to be controlled a little better. Sometimes it takes a loss of someone or something close to us to get us to change, though.

It takes a very special person to help a person through their handling of extreme stress. Very rarely is the person doing the helping the one who caused the stress in the first place. Usually the best person to deal with a stressed out person is a family member, a friend with a really good ear, someone who has dealt with the problem themselves, or a professional.

This President, when he was a young lad, had a very terrible temper. You might say he didn’t respond very well to stressful situations. I’m sure those around him tried real hard to avoid him when he was in one of his moods. The sad part is that he was much beloved around town for his curiosity, his energy, his fun-loving ways, and of course, his big smile.

One Halloween, our young presidential lad’s two older brothers, Arthur and Edgar, were allowed to go trick or treating. His parents told him that he was too little to go this time. His temper flared. He stormed out the door and went over to the apple tree in the yard. He just started punching the tree with his bare hands. He punched and punched until his fingers were so raw they started bleeding.

His Dad came outside, seeing the boy’s fit of rage, and he started shaking the boy in the hope that it would rattle him out of his tantrum. His Dad soon gave up and he sent the young lad to his room. This only made the young lad madder.

The young lad was in his room, crying on his pillow, for about an hour before his mother came in to talk to him. She put some salve on his hands and bandaged them. She gave him a little time before she said, “He that conquereth his own soul is greater than he who taketh a whole city.” She then explained to him that his anger was futile and self-destructive. She also explained that he had much work to do if he would ever conquer that anger.

That was not the end of the anger issues for the young lad, though. Two years later, the lad would get very angry at his older brother, Arthur. Arthur was much bigger than he was, so getting in a fight with Arthur would have been really stupid. Instead, the young lad picked up a brick and hurled it at his older brother. It just missed his brother, but, no doubts about it, he had every intention of trying to really hurt his brother.

Surprisingly what seemed to help him deal better with his temper was his schooling. He was, like his brothers, very competitive. He became interested in the spelling bees that were being held at his school. He also took a great interest in mathematics. Both of these subjects are very structured. Being a real stickler for organization and always disliking careless mistakes, might have been both the motive and motivation for his interest in these.

The young lad also developed a very early love of history. His first “hero” was Hannibal. Then he became very interested in the American Revolution and George Washington.

They say that history repeats itself. Well, the Bible is no exception to that rule. In the old King James Bible we see so and so begat so and so, who begat so and so, who begat so and so, over and over again. We see the kingdoms of Israel and Judea obey God, then disobey God, then repent, then obey God again, then disobey God again, and then repent again, over and over again.

There was also a group of very whiny, under appreciative walkers in the Bible who seemed to do the same thing over and over again, too. Despite God’s gift to them, they constantly complained. God handled the whole situation by letting them walk until they stopped complaining. As many times as they got into God’s good graces, then into His bad graces, over and over again, you would think they would have learned that their stress was much better left for Him to handle.

God would take these very stubborn people, and over and over again He would perform miracles, yet they never seemed to be able to trust what He was doing. It’s a good thing they had a good, strong leader who always seemed to know what God wanted for his people. Through his example he showed them what trusting and obeying God was all about. Or did he?

The young presidential lad and his brothers, Edgar and Arthur, were very competitive and they were known, from time to time, to test each other’s patience, but there was no doubt about their love for each other. When bad things came their way, those brothers had each other’s backs.

When the young lad was a freshman in high school, he would fall and scrape his knee. That, in itself, is probably not that unusual for a young, competitive boy. This time something was different. Since there was no bleeding, his parents thought nothing of the incident. Just like normal, they sent him to school the next day.

When the young lad returned home that evening, infection had set into the leg. He fell into a delirium on the couch. A doctor, Dr. Conklin, was quickly called.

Dr. Conklin’s treatments didn’t seem to be working. The lad slipped into a coma. The infection was spreading. Dr. Conklin called in a specialist from Topeka. The news was not good. The leg must be amputated. The young boy may never walk again.

The lad awoke momentarily while his parents were discussing the amputation. The parents really did not trust doctors, but they were torn because the doctors insisted that if the infection continued, and arrived in his stomach, the lad would surely die. The infection had already reached his groin.

Only fourteen-years-old, the lad listened quietly. The lad then turned toward his parents and firmly said, “You are never going to cut that leg off.” He would fall back into unconsciousness.

When he awoke again, his brother Edgar was by his bedside. He leaned over to Edgar and said, “Look, Ed, they are talking about taking my leg off. I want you to see that they do not do it, because I would rather die than to lose my leg.” He made Edgar promise not to let them do it.

Edgar agreed and he took his promise seriously. He rarely left his brother’s bedside. When Edgar slept, he slept on the floor across the threshold of the door in his younger brother’s bedroom.

Surprisingly, at the end of the second week the infection began to recede. After about two months rest, which caused him to have to repeat his freshman year, the lad completely recovered.

The Israelites were so happy to get out of Egypt. Nothing could ever ruin this day. God was with them and nothing could stop them. Proudly they walked out of Egypt and into the vast unknown. Their eyes were filled with visions of fertile lands with cows and sheep and little thatched huts. Yes, they saw nothing but the land of milk and honey in front of them.

Then one set back after another came. Every trial that came their way brought out their worst fears. Those stresses caused them to want to go back to the “good old days” over and over again. The problem was they forgot what the “good old days” were really about. They weren’t “good old days” at all, it was slavery.

Moses, the leader of the group, had to go to God over and over again because of their whining. At least two of those times had to do with water, or should I say the lack of water?

The first time the people complained they were at their camp at Rephidim. Moses wasn’t real happy about the complaining and he let them know it. But Moses went to God anyway. God simply tells Moses to “take his staff and strike the rock at the Nile.” Moses does as he is told and low and behold, water comes gushing out. The people are happy and well hydrated.

The second time happened many years later, but it looks almost like a mirror image of the first time. The people, who are in the Wilderness of Zin, complain because there is no water. Moses gets upset with them again, but he goes to God with their request. Moses is not a very happy camper at this point. This time God tells Moses to talk to the rock this time instead of hitting the rock like he did the last time. God assures Moses that water will come out of the rock just like it did many years prior.

Moses is still very upset at the people and the sight of them even made matters worse. As he approached the rock he didn’t talk to it like God told him to do. No, Moses struck the rock, just like he did the time before. The amazing thing about it was that water came gushing out of the rock anyway. Even though Moses did not follow the directions, the water came out.

Even though Moses’ temper did not affect the results of the people getting water, it did affect his relationship with God. God would now put a wall between Moses and Himself. Moses would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land. I guess how someone handles stress even affects the best of them.

Although no one really knows when Dwight Eisenhower gained control over his temper, Eisenhower would say this about the conversation his mother had with him, as she nursed his sore hands when he was a lad: “I have always looked back on that conversation as one of the most valuable moments of my life.”

I’m sure Eisenhower’s leg incident put an exclamation point on his mother’s comments. Seeing the way his parents handled the stress in his near death situation must have influenced his views on how to handle stress. His brother’s protection and loyalty had to teach him the uselessness of letting stress, or a temper, be an excuse to justify taking frustrations out on others.

Life is too fragile and too short to let stress be the victor all the time. It’s hard to not let stress get the best of you, but if your reactions to stress are causing you to dread each day or it is causing you to lash out at those around you, it may be time to take a different approach to your situation.

Changing your reaction to stress may include: taking a walk or a break, looking at things differently, getting a new job, physically moving out of the stressful situation, trying to find activities to do to get your mind off the stress (or at least giving you something else to look forward to doing), or even finding some professional help.

Too much stress is not good for anyone, not to mention those around you. How you handle stress can also affect your physical health. Stress is always going to be around, how you handle it is the key to a better life.

Prayer: Dear Mighty Father, Oh, life can be so stressful at times. I wish there was a pathway I could walk that would always leave it behind. That is not always the case. In those cases where stress is starting to get the best of me, please grant me wisdom and strength to handle it properly. Amen.

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