Why We Need Stories Of Disability
It may seem odd that as a good-news website, we feature countless stories of people with disabilities. The deliberate reason is, they give us hope. Hope for abundant happiness in life despite being deaf, or having no arms, or, like the 22 year old college student in today’s video, living with spinal muscular atrophy. Their ability to focus on what one can do versus what one can't do reminds us all we can be happy with what we have if for a second we just stopped complaining about it.
The caption over a photo recently posted on I Waste So Much Time, sums it up well:
If he can smile, so can you.
You wouldn't wish this boy's plight on your worst enemy, but there he is, smiling beside a lifetime of prosthetic limbs. I'm sure there are times when he wishes things were different, that he could know what it's like to feel the grass under his bare feet. Everyone has bad days where it's all too easy to wish for things to simply be better. However, that doesn't mean an imperfect life has the power to break us. Making the effort to be happy despite the things we can't change is, in itself, a reason to rejoice. The boy pictured above doesn't look like he's faking it. He looks not only like he's dealing with his disability well, but that he's also proud of it. He was born that way, and it doesn't look like he's in for a life filled with remorse and bitterness.
Nick Vujicic, a man born without any limbs at all, has made a successful career out of his life story. One of his lectures was posted on Youtube, and to date it has 36,978,732 views. After watching it myself, I'm not surprised at how viral it went.
Vujicic isn't invited on stage because he's surviving. His story is rare, which certainly grabs our attention, but what keeps us listening to him is his humor, his wit, and his sense of clarity. His stories are more than, "I have no limbs and I haven't starved." He gets specific and wastes little time in talking about his worst fears and how he was able to move past them.
For example, he thought he'd never be a good husband because, "How can [you] be a good husband when you can't hold your wife's hand?" but those worries were quelled when he realized that, although he can't hold her hand, he can still "hold her heart." You don't need hands to captivate someone's imagination, or fall in love. Essentially, that's what we want to hear. We want to know that whatever wounds we acquire won't cut us off from certain parts of life. We want someone to prove that a bad day might be a blessing in disguise, and when a good day rolls around (and they always do) we'll enjoy them better having been through hell.
A good goal for this week is to consider what scares you, and imagine Vujicic diving into the deep end of a pool with no arms or legs to tread water. That is literally (and I mean literally) a leap of faith, and he does it laughing. He, and every amputee, and every deaf, blind, heartbroken, and downtrodden person who gets back up with the intention of being better than they were before is a living reminder that life is hard, but we can handle it.