Nearly each day this young girl rolls into the school cafeteria, on her way towards the breakfast line.
On July 3rd 2011, David asked for candy all day long.
Never mind that we had candy; he wanted nothing to do with the sweets that the stunning Mrs. Clark had packed for our camping trip. No, his request was specific: Fun Dips – the candy sticks that you lick and then dip in pure sugar.
He badgered us all afternoon, but never got his Fun Dips.
Later in the day Sherry noticed an Easter Egg under the tree next to our tent at the camp site; the KOA conducts egg hunts at Easter time so it’s not a surprise to see a few stragglers. David picked up the egg and inside he found a dollar. My thought is that he would have packed it away, but David had a better idea.
He headed to the clubhouse and got Fun Dips.
He wore a green sticky sugar smile for some time afterwards. There is something to be said for determination!
Born in 1944 with polio, my Uncle Doug beat it only to get Muscular Dystrophy later on.
Despite the obvious physical struggle he endured, Doug was a stellar case study in using what he had to accomplish more than people thought he could. He did as much as possible on his own, stopping at the point of his physical abilities. In an era when “people of his kind” spent their lives in special homes, he was creative, a writer, an artist, and college student at the University of Minnesota. Even the act of starting a simple Bible study in his apartment led his caregiver to Christ; that man went on to become a dynamic pastor in the Midwest.
Doug died in 1970 when his 26-year old body could no longer handle the disease.
During his life he surprised us, inspired us, and showed us all that giving up on yourself – and what you can do – is just a load of crap. I miss him and that spirit every single day.
Jack put his little foot on my arm. “Dad,” he asked on that Summer morning in 2011. “What’s five plus three?”
“Five plus three is eight Mister,” I said looking at the three little toes gripping the back of my hand.
“I have eight toes! See?” He proudly counted them off to me.
To Jack, being born different has never been different. To him, having a short leg and eight toes is reality. Where ten toes is standard for the most of the world, eight is Jack’s ten. And not a big deal. For anyone who has met Jack, they will understand that Proximal Femural Focal Deficiency (PFFD) does not curb his enthusiasm for life or inhibit his physical activity. That he wears his prosthetic “Super Leg” is just as much a part of daily life as his brother taking ADHD medicine. He dances, he cart wheels, He kicks, he runs, and he walks on his hands. Jack has adapted to a world that didn’t expect him.
And he is slowly mastering it.
The day in July when he layed his three toes on my hand made me realize something very important: Everyone adapts. As a Lefty, I have adapted over the years to the gooey pens that smear my arm with ink – by “hooking” my hand above and away from the writing. The stunning Mrs. Clark chooses guitars with smallish necks and bodies, because larger instruments don’t fit how her own body is shaped. My Dad has a myriad of gadgets and tools to make up for his bum shoulder. We may not all adapt at the same level, but each of us has to do something in life a bit different from everyone else. Adaptation comes from thinking outside the cookie cutter and finding a way to succeed.
But the willingness to adapt comes from the heart.
I haven’t always been a good adapter. I get grumbly sometimes when confronted by a problem that seems to ask me to provide stuff I don’t have – or don’t know how to do. But I try hard to ask myself what is available to fix the issue, adapting with whatever gadget or move I can find.
It might be that Jack has one up on the rest of us already.
Being born with a disability means he isn’t weighed down by any recollection of doing things differently. I need to learn from him, and let go of past failure. How we approach life is about desire rather than physical stature. If a kid with a short leg and eight toes can succeed at Kung Fu, then the least I can do is keep trying at something until I get it right.
Eight is The New Ten. Five Plus Three. Possibly the best math equation around.
“That kid,” Courtney said, “just wouldn’t give up.”
After getting done with our Bible study last night, the stunning Mrs. Clark and I went to pick up Jack from childcare in another part of the church. We found him sitting on the steps of the stage, sweaty and tired. Courtney smiled big while pointing at the basketball hoop.
“He shot baskets for an entire hour to get the ball in. And he did it.”
Jack is short, and the basket is high off the ground.
Nevertheless, he has the determination and drive of three 8-year olds. Jack doesn’t let something like a short pair of legs and a prosthetic get in the way of a goal. He finds a path. He locates a loophole. He goes around the obstacle.
And just about every time he makes that basket.
I think it’s clear that we can learn from this, or at least be reminded that getting around the obstacle is often a matter for the mind to command. How else could Sherry raised hundreds of pounds on her back during her power lifting days? Her head led and her body followed. I thought of this the other day when I was watching the movie Captain America; halfway through a run, a group of men stood by a tall flagpole. “Whoever brings me that flag gets to ride back to base with Agent Carter.” While all the biggest and toughest men tried hard to climb the pole to get the flag, not one of them succeeded. The beautiful Agent Carter simply sat in her seat and smiled at each attempt. Then after all the others had failed, Steve Rogers – the smallest of them – walked over to the pole, pulled a pin which dropped the pole to the ground, untied the flag and gave it to the officer before hopping in the back of the Jeep.
Brain over Brawn.
Life is full of walls. We all see them and grumble about them. I needed to see and hear about Jack’s determination to throw that ball through a hoop to know that I have to keep knocking those walls down. Push towards a goal. Think it through. Thing around it. The path may be unfamiliar or unexpected. Keep pushing. And for the love of all that’s holy, never ever give up.
Your basket awaits.