I have a friend. Throughout our growing up he was known as one of the skiers and one of the most active people in town. He was on the cross-country team, he marched in the band, and he managed to ski and water-ski more than anyone else in school. More importantly, he was a leader and organizer who engaged the rest of the student body to participate in events. Then, just after he turned seventeen years old something happened. He was paralyzed in a ski accident, shattering four vertebrae and was left with basically no feeling below his belly button. However, that became just the beginning of his being an inspiration to the rest of us.
After about three months of surgery and recovery he began doing things. He began doing more than most “normal” people do. He began cycling, powered by his hands, he played trombone in the jazz band, and eventually he returned to skiing. He applied to college and got into one of the most competitive private schools in the country. Through this process he received many scholarships. He received scholarships to help him get cycles and a sit-ski, and scholarships to help him pay for college. Some naysayers said that this was “only because he was disabled”. He was disabled, but only his closest friends knew what he was going through in school each day, the amount of pain he was having to sit-through, and the muscle spasms, just in order to attend class. However, as more students began to understand, something happened to the rest of the class. Watching him make it across the campus even in the snow inspired students, and the student body became closer.
I am told a similar thing happened at the small college he attended. He received Social Security while going to college. Some questioned, including myself until I talked to him, whether or not he should be getting so much financial help. Now I know the value of it, because he inspired the rest of us to do better. Today he is less than two years out of college and working a full time job in the legal sector while debating law school. His job requires him to occasionally travel across the country to address the cases he is dealing with. It is a far better job than I or most of my peers have achieved since graduation, and it is not easy to travel when disabled. Thus, he continues to be an inspiration. He inspires every time he greets life with an upbeat attitude when his problems are so much worse than ours and he continues to live as good and full of a life as he can.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.