I’m the last guy anyone would call a “positive thinker”. The gift of looking on the bright side of things is all concentrated in other members of my family. Usually, I don’t see a glass half full; I see it in the process of evaporating to nothing.
Nevertheless, when it comes to MS and disability, by the grace of God, I’ve been able to be a little more optimistic. Not quite Polyanna, but thinking more like Robert Kennedy:
There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?
Is there a healthier mindset for those with disabilities? By asking “why?” – Why did I get MS? Why can’t I do XYZ anymore? Why me? – we’re setting ourselves up as victims and leaving no room for hope or, if I can spiritualize things, no room for God to work.
This all came to mind recently when I heard someone decry the loss of artistic ability due to an MS-related lack of hand control. My mind quickly went to one of my heroes, Joni Eareckson Tada. As the result of a diving accident, she became a quadriplegic at age 17. What could be more discouraging than that? What could be more disabling? Today she’s married and runs an international organization (Joni and Friends) that helps people with disabilities.
Oh yeah, she also paints… with her mouth. Look at some of the work she’s done:
This page describes her history with painting.
The point isn’t how cool Joni is, although I think she’s pretty darn cool, it’s how she deals with her disability. Some people in her condition might want to end their lives. Instead, she has invested it in others. This is no victim.
Then there’s this kid who does flips in his wheelchair. Check out the video here.
I don’t mean to minimize the suffering of people. There’s no way around the fact that there are certain things people with disabilities can’t do, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something worthwhile. Concentrating on others instead of ourselves is an excellent start.
We live in an era of incredible possibilities for people with physical limitations. Handicapped skiing, fishing, golf, hockey, soccer, basketball, cycling, and entire Olympics are just some of the activities out there. Many options have been brought about by technological advances that were been considered science fiction not too long ago.
It’s no longer what I can do, but what I want to do and how much I want to do it. If it’s worth it, it’s possible with a little help from friends, technology, prayer, and/or a positive attitude.
How much do I really want it?