Unexpected inspiration…

My friend John recently told me I was an inspiration, but others have previously said it as well. Although his kind words humble me, I do not feel like an inspirational person as I have only done things others frequently do. Yet, my friend explained I have a great attitude and jovial disposition even after conquering adversities precariously placed in my path. For example, was it the 5k I did in my wheelchair proving to a buddy who all but dared me to take on such a courageous conquest? Or was it the eight miles I swam without the aid of my lethargic lower limbs to raise money for a charity that causes me the continual compliments. Maybe it was leaving the US Marine Corps a disabled vet and not letting that stop me, as some before me have done.  John shared that those things and others gave him these feelings of revelation, motivation, and adoration.

I explained to John that I was not trying to impress or motivate anyone but simply do what I needed to live my life to the fullest. I know several non-disabled people who sit on the couch making excuses while watching kids grow, friends go, and life blow. I do not want life to pass me by, plus my monstrous MS malady has gotten worse every time I sit too long in one place.  I do not feel like an inspirational person but let me share a few stories of those who inspire me. These individuals motivate me to keep moving forward and allow nothing to put a horrific halt or hamper on my headway.

A soldier named Travis Mills came back from the Iraq war after an IED explosion incident.  He was the fourth quadruple amputee who came back from this war, and although he was lost mentally briefly, he quickly got it together. Most would have understood if he played the sympathy card upon his return; however, that is far from the case. With his wife and family by his side, currently, he does more in one day than most of us do in several days.  He speaks with all returning veterans, mainly focusing on the severely wounded, showing what a positive attitude can do.  He has an exercise training regimen rivaled only by die-hard fitness trainers.  He also wrote a book sharing his life story and does book signings showing no signs of slowing.

There is another man who was on the X-Factor named Immanuel, who is physically debilitated and unsure of his birthday. Immanuel and his brother were born in the war-torn country of Iraq, where a nun found them in a shoebox. They were adopted by an Australian family who showed them the love and affection they deserved as infants. Even though he is ambulatory, his legs and arms are not in great physical shape, although his smile puts most to shame. Nevertheless, he stood on the X-Factor stage with a slight tilt and great lilt and sang a beautiful rendition of Imagine by John Lennon. Faced with life’s difficulties, he stood up and stood out when so many would have hidden in the house.

Another person who inspires me is Kenya Sesser, a woman born in Thailand with no legs. She was an abandoned baby left on the steps of a Buddhist temple in Pak Chong, where monks raised her for the first two years of her life. After four years of foster care at six, Kenya was adopted by an American couple living in Oregon. Now living in Venice Beach, CA, she has a resume that puts others to shame, including modeling, acting, surfing, skateboarding, and being a Paralympics athlete. Sesser shows how a can-do attitude can get you very far in life when you take this brick wall of no legs and find ways around it over it or even through it. With no legs, she stands taller than most full of pride and reminds us all to look directly at our issues and say, get out of my way.  

Nick Vujicic was born with no arms or legs in Melbourne, Australia, to two loving parents. Neither he nor his parents knew what kind of life Nick could even have in the early years of his life other than constant and continual care. However, his severe struggles and significant setbacks did not keep him from achieving seemingly unattainable goals. Nick Vujicic has become a powerful motivational speaker who speaks worldwide, reminding people never to give up. He has written several books and is raising four children along with his beautiful wife. When confronted with his physically challenged life, he accomplished much more than anyone could have imagined. The question he often asks his audience and I ask you now: what is your excuse? 

These are just a few of the inspirational stories helping to encourage me on my road of life. There are a plethora of stories in this world of people showing true fortitude against personal hardships.  If someone was inspired by something I have done or said, then I am humbled. I have been inspired by people I have met along the way, although they were also merely doing what they had to do to make it. Life threw a monkey wrench into their lives, and they regrouped and reengaged to accomplish their goals. I feel everyone has a challenge or two pertaining to their lives, and so the question is, what are you willing to do to complete the task?

If you can’t find inspiration, be an inspiration.

An attitude of gratitude…

I am a ridiculously nice man I know this. Until… The following is a true story.

My Google Home device: *ding* I have a reminder for Scott

Me: Hey, Google, what’s up?

My Google Home: I have a reminder called you have a doctor’s appointment in 4 days.

Me: thank you, Google.

My Google Home: thank you for thanking me. I guess we are caught in a thanks loop…

I think I broke my Google home device.

I believe the key to happiness is genuinely twofold.  First, you must wear a smile and have gratitude for everything in life, whether big or small.  This attitude means no matter what happens, keep a positive outlook and always have a sparkling sunny disposition. Second, when you need help and require assistance, people will be willing to assist you if you are gloriously glowing.  Grumpy Gus’s get bitter rejection when support is needed the most, so no sourpuss faces on your mug. 

My experience shows most people fear those who are different as they fit into the others category. Individuals who walk with a wobble, use canes, forearm crutches, or even use wheelchairs get shunned and chagrined. However, those of us who ambulate using these methods are the ambassadors of the disabled, meaning we need to put our best foot forward.  We need to prove we should not be rejected and neglected but deserve the same respect as everyone else.

The second part is subjective yet more critical, in my opinion, which is to help people before they ask for any assistance.  To insert true happiness into the mess we call society, I say pay it forward by helping others even when they cannot help you back.  Asking is the hardest part of need, so if we can stand out to show we care for a stranger, it makes us better people. Be aware you do not have to do anything outside of your comfort zone.  The list of volunteering options is just as long as the non-volunteering items that are desired.   A kind word, an offer to do the dishes, a ride, a smile, and these seemingly simple stunts may seem silly but may mean the world to the recipient. 

When I was growing up, my family was lower middle class, although we were a hare’s breadth away from being poor. Unfortunately, our family held onto the title of the lower middle class like it was the last Twinkie at a Weight Watchers meeting.  My mother, a single parent, worked a full-time job and went to college, so we rode that tightrope between poor and poor-ish for seven years.

We were low-income, but I had no idea what being poor meant until I met some genuinely poor people in high school.  I was not afraid to make friends with anyone, including those shunned and socially shamed because of their appearance or clothing.  I made good friends with those who were the real impoverished individuals in high school.  Freshman through senior year was the most challenging years for a kid to hide the family’s financial footing.  So I had both rich and poor friends though I learned the most about life and the real meaning of friendships from those with the least.

I learned from seeing this downtrodden lifestyle and how some of my friends did not work so their parents could do so.  Most days, Jim needed to watch his younger siblings because his parents could ill-afford decent childcare.  I quickly realized that when we were going to eat fast food, Jim could not buy food for lunch.  I did not want them to feel bad and look needy if I only bought food for him.  The solution was to pay for the group as not to single out the most disadvantaged amongst us.  It felt good to do good for others without making Jim feel embarrassed or ashamed for not contributing financially. My action was done with no expectation of payback, thus I began a life of utilizing opportunities to pay it forward or daily acts of kindness.

My mom tells me I am merely leading by example, yet I genuinely hope people are willing to follow suit.  I understand not everyone can afford to do a lot, but little acts of kindness make a difference in this bitter-filled world.  So the next time you are out at your favorite coffee place, buy a coffee for a stranger or do some other random act of kindness.  I guarantee you it will make them feel good, but it will give you an incredible feeling as well.  On the other hand, if someone does something kind for you, be gracious and say thank you while consider paying it forward.

Be the change in the world that you want to see- Gandhi.