August 29th launches the London Paralympics, 14 days of the fastest and strongest the world has to offer. There is one thing that everyone of those disabled and otherwise abled athletes have in common and that is at sometime in their life or during their diagnosis some doctor or social worker or clergy and yes even family member told them they would have to forget “all that nonsense” because they were disabled now and disabled people didn’t do that.
This kind of nay-saying is not peculiar to just the disabled but is seems to be more prevalent amongst our community.
I was born in a rural outback area of Australia where my only responsibility was to grow up with good grades and learn everything thing there is to know about cattle and sheep and their management, get an agricultural degree and marry someone from the farm next door!
Then mom and dad divorced and we moved to the city and we were considered poor and welfare class. Mom was a single parent of a brood large enough to have her own basketball team so we were not even encouraged to finish school, we were told to get enough of an education to get a paycheck and start paying my share. When I wanted to become a chef or do comedy I was told “forget that nonsense” you have responsibilities.
When I was an adult I was expected to marry so I did. We had kids because it was expected. When someone told me I was a talented comedian I was told “forget that nonsense” you have a family. When my marriage broke down and my children were taken by my ex and I was finally free to come out I was told, you guessed it, ”forget that nonsense,“ what will your children think.
I came out. You all know I met my wife and emigrated to the United States. I have always been an entrepreneur and a chef so opportunities to cater movie sets and bake wedding cakes for magazine covers, and chef for politicians and rock stars came along and what made a difference was this time I had someone who believed in me and she didn’t say “forget that nonsense.“ Her credo is “what are you waiting for?”
When I became disabled she became a mother hen. She micro managed my care and me, and yes sometimes I rebelled, but when push came to shove and I said “I might take up wheelchair racing” or I am going to push a wheelchair solo from New York to LA “Or I am going to try Triathlon” she replied “what are you waiting for” and that there is the difference.
During the Paralympics you will see our bravest, our finest, our strongest, and our fastest and whether they listened to their own voices in their heads or the encouragement of a loved one they are great because the cry of “what are you waiting for” in their lives was louder than “forget that nonsense.” You don’t have to be disabled to be encouraged and inspired by a double amputee playing sit volley ball or a racer winning a sprint or a murder ball player crashing his wheelchair into an opponent, you just have to have a pulse because most able bodied wouldn’t try it – it’s dangerous. But these heroes live every minute of their lives 110% and now they’re giving their all for the love of their country. So step right up and forget that nonsense that we’re helpless, that we’re fragile because we as a community are everything we can be and more. We create new things to test us every minute.
Congratulations to each and every athelete, whichever country you represent, for you have overcome the nonsense and become the best.