Inspiration Information — Life without limbs

by aaron on August 15, 2010

“I used to think that I needed my circumstance to change before I had any hope. I wanted to know that there was someone else out there in my position, to know that there is hope, that there is more than just the little box that I see in my life.” ~Nick Vujicic

This past weekend I was sitting on Makena beach in Maui, watching young kids Skimboard the shorebreak.  Now skimboarding is a cross between sand sliding and surfing, where you take a finless oval-shaped wood board, wait for the incoming waves to wash up the beach, then run and “skim” the outgoing tide into the ocean.

It takes a lot of balance, control and physicality… and if you time it just right, you can launch huge airs off the top of the next incoming swell.  If you’ve never heard of it, or my description isn’t capturing the visuals clearly, you may want to check out this link here.

I mention this anecdote because I was captivated — not by the strength and skill of these local kids carving huge V’s into the surf… but by the one man who stood apart.  A man who raced the waves faster, hit the lip harder, and flew higher through the air than anyone else on the beach that day.  A man with TAR (thrombocytopenia-absent radius) syndrome — characterized by underdeveloped hands and arms.

I watched this man outperform kids half his age and size, fearlessly launching 6 foot high flips.  360 airs.  All without the use of his arms.   What set him apart was not his disability, the curious image of his useless T-rex arms, but rather his ABILITY.  His ease and grace on that board and in the water.   He used his feet to kick the board in front of him, then ran and leapt onto the fast sliding rails and just let rip.  It was an incredibly inspiring sight, not just to see this guy overcome his handicap with such apparent effortlessness… but to see the amount of energy and joy with which he tore into those waves.

And watching him I was reminded of two similar stories — the first one about a 32 year old woman in Salem, Massachusetts named Sheila Radziewicz — who just attained her black belt in Taekwondo, without arms!

Sheila was born without arms and kneecaps, and her feet rotated pigeon-toed, toward each other.  “I wasn’t supposed to live,”  She said.  “Then I wasn’t ever supposed to walk.”  Over the course of her adolescence, she endured numerous surgeries aimed at helping her walk.  Until junior high she wore thigh-high metal braces to support her movement.  She’s been fighting to beat the odds her whole life.

But now she’s fighting for fun.  And she’s not just walking, she’s kicking.  She can break boards with her feet.  She can wield nunchucks with her stunted arms.  Her dedication and positivity have quickly earned her respect and mastery in her three years at the Martial Arts academy.  And it’s not just taekwondo where Sheila has achieved high levels of self-sufficiency.  At 19 she moved out of her parents’ house and began living on her own.  By 23 she earned her driver’s license, and the state helped fashion a car that Sheila can drive with her feet.

But best of all, Sheila works in the community as a local advocate coordinator for HAWC (Healing Abuse Working for Change), where she helps women victims of domestic violence navigate the court system.  So she’s kicking ass both in and out of the Dojo!

Now meet Nick Vujicic:

Nick is the same age as me.  He is a handsome, charismatic man.  He has a beautiful wife.  A flourishing nonprofit organization (faith based Life Without Limbs).  He has all the energy, the passion and the ability that I aspire to cultivate in my daily life.  The only difference between me and Nick is that Nick has no arms.  And no legs.  He was born this way, a head and torso, without any medical explanation.  A complete shock and surprise to both his doctors and parents.

As you can imagine, life for Nick is a constant challenge.  Every little action we perform on an unconscious level is a mountain of adversity for Nick.  From brushing our teeth, to scratching an itch… even getting up when we’ve fallen down.  Without limbs how can one function, let alone thrive?

At the age of 8, Nick was sick of asking these same questions and only getting despair as an answer.  Life was too hard trapped in his body, totally dependent on others for basic survival.  So little Nick decided to commit suicide, by throwing himself off a table.

In that moment everything shifted for Nick.  Since then he has become an advocate for triumph over disabilities, not just physically, but mentally and spiritually.  He tours the world, speaking in front of churches, schools, giant arenas about the power of Attitude is Altitude. Nick’s message is a simple one — you don’t need limbs to lead a meaningful life, you just need a big heart.   In the context of his personal achievements, in the power of his smile and the beauty of his exuberant spirit, Nick is a vision of inspiration.  A symbol that the many obstacles we face are merely means to strive harder and grow stronger.  That nothing is impossible, despite impossible odds.

The surfer on Makena beach with the little arms and the huge acrobatics, Sheila with her high kicks and indomitable discipline, Nick with the power of his words and belief — all are flashing signs in the overwhelming overflow of life’s daily struggle that we need not despair.  That in spite of the lemons life gives us, we can find alternate ways of transformation and transcendence.  As Joseph Campbell so eloquently states: “Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.

There are lemons, yes.  There are people with limbs and without.   And still, in spite of everything, when we sit back to enjoy all the sugary pleasures life also provides… Man, can that lemonaide taste sweet.

One comment

[…] We also had a crop of amazingly talented individuals overcoming the adversity of missing limbs.  Like Pro Surfer Bethany Hamilton and motivational speaker Nick Vujicic. […]

by Inspiration Information — Year in Review |Twin Ink on January 3, 2011 at 2:28 am. Reply #

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