Everybody loves an underdog.
Well, not always.
A young lady emailed me recently and shared a story that broke my heart. She was born like me, missing her left forearm and hand. Even so, she never let it stop her from doing anything. Until recently, that is, when she started college. She chose to enroll in the respiratory therapy program because, as she said, “I want to save a life.” Could a person have a more honorable reason for doing anything? I think not. Well, her instructor told her she either needs to get a prosthesis or quit the program.
Apparently this instructor is not a fan of underdog stories.
Her message went on to ask me for my advice. “What do you think about my situation? Am I a fool for second guessing myself and letting someone tell me what I can and can’t do? Or are there just some things that I need to accept that I can’t do?” she asked. A number of thoughts raced through my mind initially. The first was something to the effect of, “Yes, get the prostethic and then punch your instructor in the face with it.” Ok, it was worse than that, but kids read this blog, I’m told.
As I continued to think about how to respond, I read another message. It was from Augustin who wanted to tell me about his wife, Kelly. When she was only 12, Kelly was in a car accident that paralyzed her right arm. Augustin says, “As a young girl, one of her high school teachers saw Kelly try to use a camera and suggested she leave it because it ‘cannot be done with one hand.’ Kelly set out to prove her wrong, and now she is an amazing photographer. She has been known to defy the odds many times; we have gone rock-climbing, surfing and she was a snowboard instructor in college. She has some great stories of being in the photo darkroom rolling the film canister in the pitch dark with her feet.”
Another underdog hater proven wrong.
Now, to be fair, these people may have had good intentions. Maybe they were trying to protect these young women from feeling like failures. Even if that’s true, though, I’m not buying what they’re selling. Instead of telling the underdog to stop doing something or to not even try, we need to help them figure out how to overcome the challenge! I mean, what’s more fun than being a part of an underdog’s story? Not much. You felt it as the Fellowship journeyed with Frodo. And you saw it on the faces of Rudy’s Notre Dame football teammates as they carried him off the field.
It’s one of my greatest joys in being a part of the LOH community.
So, hear me saying this: You can do it. Whatever it is, you can figure out a way. And you know what? You don’t have to do it alone. Friends, family, teammates, co-workers, strangers who wear Brewers baseball caps…we’re all here cheering you on. We’re here to help. So, if you feel like you’re an underdog, I’m glad. I’m glad because it’s going to make an amazing story when you do that thing. Like Kelly, the photographer.
And like my new friend who is going to be a respiratory therapist.
Checkout Kelly’s amazing photography at her website and remember to join the LOH community on Facebook and Twitter!
There’s only one thing that can stop you from doing something… you. 🙂 Great post, Ryan!
Ryan, I lost my left hand to gangrene when I was 11. In my early 20’s I worked at a large department store. I had an elderly lady, who said she was a physician, tell me I shouldn’t be working in a job where the public could see me.
That made me gasp. Wow. We still have a long way to go!
The young lady who wants to be a respiratory therapist may have a valid complaint for workplace discrimination. Contact your state civil rights office in your state capital. In principle, employers can’t make up their own rules for hiring or education.
I love this blog Ryan. Thank you for all you do and say. My awesome 7 year old, Demitrius, was born without a left hand. From day 1 he has proven that can and WILL whatever he puts his mind to. God Bless You and thanks!