Amazing Stories Can Begin In Unexpected Places

July 27, 2012 — 11 Comments

There’s a Culver’s restaurant two blocks from my house.

Without trying to sound overly dramatic, that’s where my life changed forever.

And I’m not referring to a fried cheese-curd experience.

In late 2010, I was eating dinner by myself (and loving it because I’m an introvert), when I noticed a little boy who had an arm just like mine.  “Cool,” I smiled to myself.  As I finished my meal and headed toward the door, his mom came running.  Slightly out of breath, she presented her son to me.  I remember it being as awkward as that sentence sounds.  He was wearing a Tigers shirt, so I asked if he played ball.  He did.  He explained that he didn’t have a favorite position, but that he played them all.  After a minute we said our “nice to meet yous” and headed toward our cars.

I remember feeling sad as I walked away.  The mom clearly loved her son, but she seemed worried.  It was like she was saying, “Look, son, he’s like you!”  I wanted to give them a hug and tell them everything was going to be fine.  I just wanted to help them.  And that was the very first time that I thought I could be helpful in that way.  Helping amputees and their families, I mean.  The truth is, I hardly ever used to see amputees.  Like, ever.  I honestly never even knew I was an amputee until I broke my short arm in 2008.  To me, the word implies a cutting off.  Like, you get run over by a truck and they amputate your leg.  I was born this way, so I never viewed myself as one.  Now I know the truth, which is that I’m a congenital amputee.

After that experience, I wrote a piece for called Finding – And Being – Good Community.  It is the very beginning of, even before I had the name.  In fact it wasn’t until nearly a year later that I launched the blog.  But, that experience was the crucible for everything I’m doing now.

Which brings me to the other night.

On a Thursday night, in the same Culver’s where it all began, I met with Luke and his mom, Jane.  Luke is going into 6th grade, likes to read and play soccer, and his right arm ends at his elbow.  Oh, and he often rides his bike to the Culver’s that is (did I mention this before?) TWO BLOCKS FROM MY HOUSE.  One day he saw my business card on the board there and took it home.  Turns out, our families live less than five minutes from each other.  Coincidences are so awesome.

Luke and I got sundaes and the three of us talked about life with one arm.  Luke told me about his bike (of which I’m totally jealous) and the fun he had at camp recently.  We talked about how it’s a little uncomfortable when you play games at school where you have to hold hands.  “But, if it’s someone I don’t know very well, I just tell them they can grab my shoulder,” Luke said.  His solution caught Jane off-guard.  She was so proud; it was adorable.

Jane told me about Luke’s great friends and also her concerns for him.  “Trust me, you have nothing to worry about,” I told her.  And I believe that whole-heartedly.  Luke is intelligent, polite, confident and funny.  I didn’t say this at the time, but I think Jane’s biggest worry will be keeping the girls at bay!

After a while, we moseyed out to head home.  We gave hugs, took a picture and promised to keep in touch.  As I got into my car, I’ll be honest…I was on cloud nine.  The visit was even better than I had hoped for.  And prayed for.  On the way there I had prayed that I’d have the right words to say, that we’d have a good time, and that it’d be encouraging.  I’m humbled that I get to be a part of Luke and Jane’s story.  It’s an honor.

Luke and me and the LOH-mobile.

What’s so exciting about this “circle of life” event, is that I know it’s still just the beginning.  I’m so excited to be a part of this journey LOH has me on and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

And I encourage you to be on the lookout in your own life.  Amazing stories can begin anywhere.

Even at a family burger joint.

I’d love if you shared your story with us, particularly if it had an unexpected beginning!

(Join the LOH Facebook community and follow on Twitter, too!)


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I'm a husband, a father, an author, a speaker, a friend...all kinds of things, actually.

11 responses to Amazing Stories Can Begin In Unexpected Places

  1. I want to hug you again and again. I kind of feel like I’ve been on this adventure with you. I remember when you told me about that little boy at the restaurant. I can’t tell you how proud I am to watch how you’ve stepped forward to become a guide and a mentor for so many kids and adults in person and online. Seriously. I am so impressed and proud.

  2. I am Luke’s uncle. I don’t know of a more impressive person in this world than my nephew, that is until now. I don’t even know what your name but thank you for your kindness and encouragement. If my nephew has people like you to help and inspire him then I know things are going to be alright and for that I am thankful

  3. Sorry thank you jim

  4. What a cool story, Ryan! I got to witness my Sam being mentored by some really awesome Limb Different people this past weekend. It was really cool, but better yet has been the conversations we’ve had (and ones he had with his teacher and friends) since then. It was much more special to him than I even thought. Never underestimate the impact you can have! I mean our website exists because of you and we can’t wait to meet you in person.

  5. Thank you Ryan for giving my nephew a human vioice and sorry I called you Jim. God bless

  6. Bess, Mom to Oliver (3yrs old, LBE) July 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Aw, man! This is awesome. I wish you lived 5 minutes away from us!!

  7. Wow. Your willingness to reach out and help others is so inspiring. I love the story and pray that it does indeed take you and others to wonderfully amazing and unexpected places!

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