Over the past six weeks, our family has experienced the power of community, online and offline, in ways we have never felt. I’ve learned we need both the snail mail connections through cards, notes and gifts and the online community rallying around us, sharing our story and flooding us with messages. Those connections help our son face life after a severe spinal cord injury with positivity, which he attributes to the power of prayer and encouragement from thousands of people.

Each weekend, we open every letter, card, note and gift sent to Hunter. Early on, he couldn’t physically do this everyday task on his own. My sister and I opened the notes and read them to him. Now, he is stronger and medically stable. He reads the cards on his own and opens the gifts.

Katie Pinke, Agweek Publisher
Katie Pinke, Agweek Publisher

This past Saturday night and Sunday morning, we spent time going through the mail. A few cards were addressed to me, but the majority were for Hunter. He sat in his wheelchair reading each card and note.

I am often overcome with emotion by the kindness and generosity expressed in the cards. Hunter says I need to “turn off the hose,” and he smiles at my tears. We are saving every card in a box, and someday I aspire to create a scrapbook of Hunter’s life after his spinal cord injury. That’s no small feat considering I have only scrapbooked his first year of life (and he’s 22 years old now) and his sisters’ baby books are mostly blank pages. When I envision the scrapbook chronicling his journey, I can only wrap my mind around the first few pages filled with cards, notes of encouragement, Bible verses and photos. We don’t know what the future holds, and the scrapbook I imagine has hundreds of blank pages, yet to be filled on this long journey.

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No matter how the journey ahead unfolds, the words from a coach stood out in a card Hunter recently received: “We knew that we would always get your best effort.”

A huge smile spread across Hunter’s face as he read those pivotal words. I cried tears of joy and appreciation, with a deeper realization of the importance of what really matters in this earthly life.

Your best effort matters. Others around you, including your competition, expect your best effort, regardless of the challenge or task. No matter what you’re facing, put forth your best — it separates you from the pack and makes you reliable.

After Hunter read all his mail, we visited a nearby diner for brunch. He mentioned the coach’s words and said, “What he wrote, it’s really the best compliment I can receive as an athlete. That’s what I worked for — to always give my best.”

I replied: “Giving your best effort is who you are. Every day, you attack the day with your best.”

We all can glean from the coach’s insight. Give your best effort every day. In your work, in your home, in your marriage, in your sport, in your rehabilitation and in your therapy, your best will raise up others around you and forge your path ahead.

Some days will be better than others, but people will expect to receive your best, always. Give your employees, teammates, co-workers, family members, spouse, kids, neighbors, and communities your best effort. Your best doesn’t necessarily mean giving more. To me, it is honing your skills to be your best.

Online and offline, through family, friends, acquaintances and complete strangers, we are experiencing the best efforts of many who care for and love our son. From the early hours of his accident through today, your best effort has lifted us up and changed our outlook on the present and the future. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Each day our son gives his best effort in his spinal cord injury therapy. His team at Craig Hospital in Colorado expects it, just as we expect their best efforts.

I don’t know how the pages of the scrapbook will come together in the future, but I plan to give it my best effort.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.