Playing the Hand Dealt

FasterSkierMay 5, 2009

I used to work with teenagers at a residential school in New Hampshire. As all teenagers are hardwired to complain, some of these kids were exceptionally good at it. They complained about the food (which was really quite good compared to other institutions). I would say something like, “You’re not hungry enough. People in Bangladesh would be thrilled with this food.” Or they would complain about parents not sending them to an exotic vacation or not having the latest cell phone. I would snap, “You could be living in a refugee camp in southern Sudan.” I don’t think I made much of an / br /Then last week I met a guy who is a happy, energetic, active, motivated antithesis of a complainer. He made an impression on me. At first glance seeing a fellow in a wheel chair might invoke a feeling of sympathy or pity. It is very easy to first consider what might have been. But just about 15 seconds with this skier and I was wrapped in ideas about what could be. A number of years ago he lost the use of his legs in a rock climbing fall. Those who witnessed the fall of nearly 90 feet began to prepare to carry out a lifeless body. Instead they found a seriously injured, but conscious mountaineer with a severe spinal injury. He never walked /br / Last week he wheeled into the shop with two pairs of broken skis and was disgruntled because he would miss a day of training. He is an Australian seeking to qualify to participate in the Para-Olympics in Vancouver, BC in 2010. br /I have a hunch that he was an energetic, motivated, happy, active guy before the accident. He was probably ready to seize every opportunity that presented itself; a pretty good way to approach life for all of us. Then, when he fell and could no longer walk a couple of issues came into focus. One was that he would never walk again. The next was, OK, let’s get on with it and figure out how to use this as a window into other opportunities. He was thankful to be alive and since he was in that glorious state, he embraced the lyrics of that famous and deeply philosophical music group, Herman’s Hermits: “Make the most of living if you’re not prepared to die”. br /br / Without the use of his legs he is training for Nordic skiing using a “sit-ski”. If you have not seen one it is a bit like a wheel chair with skis instead of wheels. It is propelled by the use of ski poles and the muscles of the abdominal core, shoulders, arms and upper back. Oh yes, gravity helps on the downhills. Having never seen a sit-ski, I needed his guidance to figure how to select the right skis and mount the bindings. Bindings mounted and skis waxed and he was off to continue training. His foremost concerns right now are pretty much the same as any serious ski racer. He is communicating with his coaches, working on technique and conditioning, studying more about waxing, and figuring out how to set up the sit-ski frame for / br /I am not suggesting that we accept what is handed to us and be satisfied with those limitations. I am seeing my friend accept what was handed to him and then seek to push his talents to the limit, whatever that limit might be. No whining, just puffing and panting, planning and learning. br /br /Oh yes, some of those teenagers back in NH, they embraced learning and made the most of teachers who enjoyed working with them. They are puffing and panting and learning. br /br /Have a good one,br /Bertdiv class=”blogger-post-footer”img width=’1′ height=’1′ src=’’ alt=” //div