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Do You Feel Disabled?

By Charlie Badenhop

Back some time ago I saw a moving TV documentary. It told the story of a young man by the name of Bill, with severe physical handicaps. He was born without legs, feet, arms, or hands, and he had appendages on his shoulders that looked somewhat like small fins. Of course I immediately noticed how unusual Bill looked, but truly the most striking thing about him was the wonderful radiating presence he exuded. His eyes had a beautiful sparkle, and he displayed a sense of humor as well as strength. At the time of the show he was in his late twenties, had a successful professional career, and was just newly married.

Outside of work, Bill's mission was to help emotionally troubled and disabled youths to have a more positive outlook on life. He spent a good deal of his free time going around to various centers, helping children to deal with their challenges. Bill said that one of the most important messages he wanted to communicate was that there was no need for severely challenged youths to feel sorry for themselves.

Upon being questioned by the interviewer he said, "Life offers each person a unique set of challenges they must successfully face if they are to live a fulfilling life. We can spend our lives feeling sorry for ourselves because of our hardships, or we can vow to live a happy life regardless of our seeming disabilities. Each and every person faces this choice, and the decision you make in this regard determines the quality of your life."

I must say that I was amazed by Bill's upbeat way of talking, and his positive outlook on life. Even though I was only watching a TV program I felt honored to be in his presence. I also must admit to feeling embarrassed, as I realized how I still tend to make excuses and find "reasons" for some of the difficulties I have trouble freeing myself from. Watching the program I felt like a rich man complaining about not having enough money.

The most touching part of the program showed Bill working in a center for disabled youths who had developed a violent, negative way of dealing with their hardships. Most of the children had already been thrown out of school, and all of them displayed a great deal of anger.

The program showed Bill working with one boy in particular. The boy told a dark, angry story about just how unlucky and disabled he was. Bill listened patiently, acknowledging what the boy said. Several times he tried to say something positive and the boy immediately interrupted him saying, "What you say is just bullshit!"

Finally, Bill looked at the angry boy and calmly yet fiercely said the following: "Do you know what's different about you and me? Anyone that looked at the both of us would say that I am much more disabled than you are."

For the first time, the boy did not respond.

"And do you know one more important difference between the both of us? I don't feel sorry for myself and you do. The most severe disability any person can face, is believing they are less than whole and perfect, just as they are."

"No one escapes life without hardships and tragedy. We can either appreciate the gifts and talents we do have, or spend our life complaining about what we don't have. I've chosen happiness. What path will you choose from here on out?"

The young boy began to cry. Bill sat quietly for about thirty seconds, saying nothing. Then he stooped over some towards the boy and said, "If I had arms I would pick you up and hold you right now. Please know that I do love you and care about you."

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