This is the time of year when the final scoreboard totals don't necessarily denote the winners and losers.
In the game of life, the rules are a little different.
It's the time of year when we gauge our success by counting our gifts and blessings from the year past and dreaming our dreams for the year ahead.
Most people, if they had lived through a year like the one Crista Lawrence is finishing, wouldn't figure they had much to count in the way of blessings.
Not Crista. She is learning to accept her fate in 1985 and dreaming some big dreams for 1986--and beyond. Her's is an appropriate story for this time of year, that of a competitor who is winning the biggest struggle of her life.
An All-American swimmer at Cal State Northridge, Lawrence was seriously injured in a surfing accident in August. She fell off her board in shallow water off Santa Monica, breaking her neck.
Now, four months later, she is preparing to go home from Northridge Hospital Medical Center to resume her studies at CSUN.
She is not sure just when she will leave the hospital, but says, "It had sure better be by Jan. 23. Otherwise, it would be real hairy trying to go to school. I would be totally messed up."
As Lawrence has shown, she will not allow that to happen. She remains paralyzed from the bust line down, but has preregistered for spring classes at CSUN with plans to take either physics or astronomy, while maintaining her biology major.
She had planned to leave the hospital last month, but an operation she underwent at the time of her injury was still giving her problems. Doctors had taken part of her hip bone and fused it into her cervical vertebrae to repair damage caused by the fall. That fusion, however, hadn't healed properly, so Lawrence was forced to put on a special collar and extend her stay at the hospital.
She did manage to get out on weekends, and where was the first place she went?
A sporting event, naturally.
A soccer player since age 6, she went down to Torrance her first day out to watch a soccer game involving the Black Widows, the Granada Hills club team coached by her father.
Lawrence followed that up with what could have been a very painful experience--a trip to watch the CSUN swim team.
"I don't think it really bothered me," she says. "What I did was to pick out somebody who looked like they were swimming my stroke. I was able to relate to what they were doing. I could picture how I felt. I could relate to how I felt when I was swimming."
Lawrence has also spent many weekends at home.
"They encourage that at the hospital," she says. "They want you to discover the good and bad points. You find yourself saying, 'Wow, I can't do this,' or 'This is easy.' I discover what I have to learn in the hospital."
Lawrence hopes to move back to her parents' Granada Hills home next month. She had been living in the upstairs portion of that house prior to the injury. For the holidays, her parents presented her with the furniture she will need for her new downstairs room.
Her big goal now is to purchase a special van that will be equipped with a lift to allow her wheelchair to be transported and a special set of controls to allow her to drive.
The American Youth Soccer Organization, Region 174, where Lawrence once played, has set up a fund for that van. The fund is called "Wheels for Crista."
The Lutheran Brotherhood, a non-profit organization, announced that if AYSO could raise $3,000, it would double that amount for the fund. Both AYSO and the Lutheran Brotherhood came through and the total has now reached $10,000.
Contributions can be sent to P.O. Box 3683, Van Nuys, Ca. 91407.
For Crista, some dreams are still reachable.