Raintiger: Physical fragility vs the human spirit – Dec 2006

This article was my second that was published on RainTiger.com in December 2006 and was part of a monthly series of motivational writings that were loosely titled, ‘Forward ever’. I’m forever grateful for that opportunity to have my work in print, even if it was ‘only’ in the online space. I remember the original motivation of this article was to have a deep look at some mistaken beliefs we often have of ourselves. I hope I succeeded though at the end of the day, that’s for you, the reader, to judge for yourself.

Accidents happen. Every day. Every place. Every second. Tragedies happen. In life, the whole world would find agreement in one thing. That we all will someday pass from this earth and breathe our last breath. Sometimes these accidents happen in such a way that leaves the soul intact but the body crippled and devoid of function, sometimes, even of limb.

Faced with this bleak scenario of human life, we somehow manage to hear tales of great courage and of the strength of the human will when faced with seemingly impossible odds. These success stories become living breathing miracles for the rest of us to hear, see and be encouraged by no matter what our circumstances are.

Some of us may feel somewhat distant from these great stories of supernatural will and perseverance, feeling, “My situation’s different from theirs. There’s no way I’d be able to match up to those high standards that they have achieved.”

But if you take another look at those stories and probe a little deeper, you find that many, if not all, have also gone through times of painful doubt and crushing defeat. Oftentimes, they too have spent some time wallowing in their own self pity and embracing their fears like a bedside pillow, keeping them close to their heart.

These people are the same as you, me, and that scruffy neighbor that lives across your street. But there is one thing that’s different about them that raises them above their situation and their circumstances.

They made a firm, concrete, and life changing choice not to accept their circumstances. They believed in a greater possibility that there is a life out there for them to live. They believed not only in themselves, but they also believed in a higher goal and a purpose.

I heard of a man by the name of Jim MacLaren who, when he was a young star athlete, suffered a crushing accident with a 40 ton bus and was even initially diagnosed as ‘dead on arrival’. He somehow survived but lost his left leg below the knee in the accident.

During his rehabilitation, he made a life-changing choice to resume his previous life as an athlete, this time to compete as a triathlete. Over the next few years, he would go on to break records in some of the toughest races in the world and he would routinely finish ahead of 80% of the able-bodied athletes.

Tragedy was to visit him again, when during a race, he collided with a van and was flung onto a signpost, breaking his neck at the C5 vertebrae. Doctors told him he would never be able to move any part below the neck. Devastated, his life took a downward plunge and he even turned to cocaine to relieve the pain, eventually ending up addicted to it. 8 months later, he found himself speaking to voices that weren’t there on the same street that he used to regularly compete in races and he made another life changing decision to break free from his situation.

After more than 1,000 rigorous physiotherapy sessions, he has managed to reclaim some of his motor functions back and could even walk (with difficulty) if it was necessary to do so. A tremendous miracle of life – in spite of the medical experts diagnosing that he would never walk again.

What’s even more amazing is that as a result of the accident, the Challenged Athletes Foundation that was formed to help Jim, donated a bicycle to a young one-legged Ghanaian boy named Emmanuel Yeboah who would use it to change the perception of the whole nation towards disabled people.

This young Ghanaian rode the bicycle across his land of Ghana despite only having one leg. To put the significance of this event in perspective, not too long ago, disabled children were either murdered at birth or lived their lives begging on the streets of Ghana.

Their stories are amazing examples of the strength of the human spirit and what one can do when he makes a firm choice to choose life over his circumstance.

(c) 2006. Johnathan Sia

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