Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Unexpected Inspiration

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It was a normal Friday morning. I had slept amazingly well through the night which was a welcomed change from the previous two. I made my coffee and settled on my sofa to finally watch CBS Sunday Morning from January 13.

That’s when I met Nick Vujicic in the segment titled AGAINST ALL ODDS. Nick was born without arms or legs. It’s a rare birth defect called Phocomelia. No arms. No legs. Yet there he was smiling, happy, appearing unafraid, not discouraged, and profoundly moving as he shared part of his life’s journey with us, the viewing audience. I watched as he balanced a golf club between his neck and shoulder like we with arms might cradle a telephone. I watched as he swung the club and landed a whole-in-one. I watched as he propelled his torso body from a diving board into the waiting pool of water below. I watched as he surfaced, breaking through the top of the water, treading in place by moving his pelvis in the mode of a dolphin tale then swimming on his back. Both of those challenges were accepted by a person I would never have thought would have attempted either. And you know what? After watching the clip, it doesn’t surprise me that he accomplishes whatever he sets his mind to.

Here’s the reason: Nick said he embraces what he does have instead of being angry at what he doesn’t have. What a lesson. Think about that.  How often are we truly thankful for what we have? I personally have a good job, a beautiful home, my health, my senses, my family, my friends, my creativity, etc. Yet when things don’t go my way I forget all about what I do have and dwell on what I don’t have (or didn’t get, or screwed up). Let me repeat this: Nick said he embraces what he does have instead of being angry at what he doesn’t have. Instead of asking you to think about that, I have to think about that. This is a man who faces the challenge of living his life every day without the arms and legs that I take for granted. And not only can he swing a golf club and swim, he can cook and type. Yes, type. He has two toes on what appears to be a partial foot. I bemoan the lack of inspiration sometimes to sit down and type with my 10 fingers, while this man has written two books and types 60 words a minute with those two toes. Who do I think I am? 

I had to question would I be able to find that kind of joy in my life had I been born like Nick? My immediate response was: no. Knowing myself as I currently am, I think I would be depressed and unhappy and constantly asking why I wasn’t born normal. Nick is normal. His life is his normal. What I see as someone extraordinary is someone who sees himself as a person living the life he was blessed enough to be given. Oh that I could see that in myself every day. I am blessed to be alive. I am blessed to have been given everything that I’ve been given. What am I doing with my life?

This man who was born with no limbs has created an outreach program lifewithoutlimbs.org to help others with their own problems whatever those problems may be. His tag line: From No Limbs To No Limits. This man, who once as an adolescent gave up for just a second. He allowed himself to sink under the water in his bathtub. He couldn't go on with the stares and bullying at school anymore. Thankfully, for me and the others who are inspired by his story, he couldn't do it. He now invites the stares that pushed him so close to that despairing end by being a dynamic speaker who draws crowds with his message of faith, hope, and courage.

 He can’t shake your hand, but he can ask for a hug. He invites the embrace of anyone, everyone.

He is an inspiring, uplifting human being who in the greatest of all odds faced the challenges of life and grew into the man that isn’t afraid to sky dive, surf, get married, and, you guessed it, become a father. He doesn’t let anything stop him or hold him back. My wish for myself is to have a small portion of his courage and then to see how I might multiply that courage if only I’d get out of my own way and stop with the occasional pity parties that I throw for myself. Nick says he owes everything in his life to his faith. Many of you may know faith is something I’m struggling with right now. I believe that I saw this segment on a day when it was going to do me the most good--the day I was going to be the most receptive to its message. I may still be scared of God, but there’s no denying that he works in mysterious ways and none of us can truly know how.

As if Nick’s story wasn’t inspiring enough it was followed by SNOWFLAKES FOR NEWTOWN which is part of the “On The Road” series from CBS news. In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, the Connecticut PTSA requested hand made snowflakes so they could decorate the new school where the displaced children would now be attending. What they didn’t expect was an outpouring of support shown by the influx of snowflakes from all over our country and even from other countries. Children just like those lost in the devastating tragedy gave a part of themselves as they created the snowflakes for their fellow compatriots who survived. Children reaching out to fellow children to show support and love. Children who might not know the full extent of what happened in Sandy Hook, but haven’t lost their innocence or ability to love unconditionally. We forget sometimes that children do know how to share, do know how to support, do know how to love one another.

So much innocence was lost in Sandy Hook. The snowflakes to me represent the wonder and beauty of childhood and show how creativity brings out the best in all of us. We never know how even the smallest gesture can affect a life in the profoundest of ways.

Watching these two stories made every problem I think I have seem inconsequential. As tears fell down my cheeks I realized how blessed I am. I’m working through some stuff in my life and it tends to materialize in this blog. Sometimes I’m afraid it comes across as complaining. I don’t intend it that way. As I sat there, eyes blurry from the tears that wouldn’t stop, I saw hope, possibility and inspiration on the television screen in front of me. I felt a renewed desire to be an inspiration and to experience all of my possibilities.