Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Lesson in Adaptability

How often do we give up in life because it seems too hard? Too many days where everything seems out of control; we hate our jobs, our houses are a mess, and our finances are in shambles. It’s so easy to own the mess when we are up to our ears in it.

Last week I spent five full days with an inspiring young boy, who taught me; when you’re buried up to your neck in crappy circumstances, be grateful you can still breathe.
This nine year old boy taught me more about perseverance, compassion, gratitude and fearlessness in the five days I spent with him, than in the forty some-on years I’ve been alive.

Let’s face it— we who have everything we need, too often are just bitching about inconveniences. We lack the true grit that it takes to overcome diversity. Hey I’m not saying we can’t, all I’m sayin’ is that we become too complacent or too frightened to try. We get so comfortable with the confusion and doubt that wraps around us like a warm blanket that we decide to be content with living in those circumstances.

What’s it gonna take to wake up to the greatness within each and every one of us? For me—it took seeing a nine year old boy roll up to me on a black recumbent bike with bright orange and yellow flames and a smile which looked like it was taken right out of an ad for Colgate Toothpaste.

Every morning, Frank (not his real name) would show up on his bike excited to start the day and ready to experience life. See, I was a den leader in charge of twelve happy, energized, and active boys. Eleven of the boys were physically without limits and Frank who appeared to be limited. Yeah, I said “appeared”, because once I really got to know him, appearances were deceiving. Frank is this ginormous boy who happens to be a dwarf; a little person who has lived through more in his nine years than most of us in our entire lifetime. But the minute you meet Frank, you come to realize he doesn’t see himself little, and that in his mind, he is as tall as the redwood trees that sway in the summer winds.

He didn’t let anything stop him; boys couldn’t wait for the chance to be his buddy, he rolled or walked from station to station, adapted his own way to hold his knife when he whittled, used four fingers to shoot his BB gun, and used his mom to get up and down the huge water-slide. Hell, this kid found a way to be dead center in a flag football game and make plays, and fair warning— he’ll kick your butt in Ultimate Frisbee. When other kids were dropping like flies, Frank was still standing, excited to experience the next activity; excited to experience life. He didn’t shrivel; he didn’t embody the fear of trying, he didn’t give up when it got hard. Frank found a way to make it work. It wasn’t Frank that wanted to stop playing flag football or soccer last week; to him, he was just as big, if not bigger than the other boys. He never looked at anything with limits; that was his mom’s job.

How could I not be inspired by his spirit? His zest for life was infectious, and his gumption to try something new was mature beyond his years. By the end of the week, I was looking up to him.

Even though he probably will never see this post I want to thank him, tell him how much he has inspired me to keep going, to stay focused, and to suck it up when my life seems too hard or scary.

How much can we change someone’s life, by living our own? It is the realization and implementation of teachable moments that change the world.

So the next time when my life seems too hard, I will think of Frank, the boy who stood tall among the redwood trees and taught me that nothing is impossible if you know how to adapt.

Thanks for stopping in and reading my ramblings!

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