Overcoming adversity

Taking inspiration from those who haven’t let their disabilities keep them down

The author, a seminary graduate who served for a brief stint as a pastor, is a retired housing contractor. He lives in Chico.

It’s wonderful to see how certain people to whom life has not been kind deal with it with grace and fortitude. I have been fortunate to know several of those people, and they give me hope.

A couple whom I am glad to call my friends come to the gym where I belong. Both deal with adversity. The wife uses a walker and her husband deals with shoulder pain. Talking with them is a pleasure; they don’t let their adversities affect their attitudes.

Another lady comes to the gym pulling her oxygen machine. With a positive attitude, she does whatever she can. And then there’s a man who comes in an electric wheelchair. With great difficultly, he gets from the chair to an exercise machine. I told him how much I admired what he was doing. He answered me saying, “If I don’t try, I’ll just keep getting weaker.”

One day on the driving range, I noticed a man hitting every ball right on the button. Leaving to practice putting, I passed by that man to watch his swing. To my astonishment, he had two prosthetic legs and a prosthetic left arm, to which he had attached a leather strap to hold the club. Only his right arm was whole.

After a while, he joined me on the putting green. We started telling golf jokes. He was just a regular guy; his disability had no affect on his personality. He told me he’d lost his limbs while working as a lineman in Canada; he’d fallen across a power line. He was in town to give an inspirational talk.

It made me think of Stephen Hawking, the famous theoretical physicist. His body is infirm. He has no voice; his thoughts are reproduced electronically. Yet, in his mind, he sees the universe. Hawking may be the all-time champion of overcoming adversity. Let’s also not forget about Helen Keller, who wouldn’t let blindness and the inability to speak keep her from communicating.

What do we learn from these stalwarts? We learn that life is a state of mind.