The only disability in life is a bad attitude. ~Scott Hamilton
I try to be a positive person. I don't always succeed and I sometimes give in to the negative out of worry, fear or stress, but deep inside I tend to look at life as a glass half full. This has saved me many times, along with my sense of humor. I just don't think we can afford to take everything so seriously. Speaking only for myself, I need to not take myself so seriously sometimes. I look around and see so many people who have greater challenges or who are less fortunate than I and I wonder, "What the hell am I whining about?"
|J.R. Martinez is the definition of a hero.|
One of those people is J.R. Martinez. If the name sounds familiar, he was the winner of the latest Dancing With the Stars. I first saw him when he was cast on All My Children as a disfigured Iraqi war vet. Today, he was the Grand Marshall of the Tournament of Roses Parade. J.R. knows about challenges and having a positive attitude and he's not just another run of the mill celebrity. He's a real live Iraqi war veteran who was burned in a land mine explosion. He suffered burns on 40 percent of his body and has had over thirty surgeries since. J.R. could have let his experience turn him angry and bitter, but he didn't. He used it to his advantage and became a motivational speaker. Aside from that, I think he is one of the most beautiful men I've ever seen. His smile and attitude are contagious.
J.R. reminds me of a woman I met several years ago. It's been so long I've forgotten her name, but not the lesson she taught me. I'll call her Katherine for the sake of the story. One night after a performance I was house managing, a woman with Cerebral Palsy, Katherine, sat in the lobby waiting for her ride. She was in a motorized wheelchair and from what I recall, had very limited mobility. I think she could only operate the joy stick that made the chair move. She was the only one still in the lobby besides my friend, Melinda, and me.
Ordinarily I would have dreaded the wait for the ride because the service that usually brought people with mobility issues was notoriously late. I'd spent many hours waiting for rides for people in wheelchairs who were angry, bitter and blamed the world for everything. I wasn't looking forward to that kind of evening but, Katherine, I quickly noted, was the opposite of those people. Katherine was gracious, witty, and had a zest for life.
I don't remember the conversation, I doubt is Melinda does either, but what I was most struck by was Katherine's attitude. She had this light within her that beamed. She wasn't angry. She wasn't bitter. She was grateful for her life. She was thrilled she could still come to the theatre. She was grateful she could control the joy stick on the wheelchair. She didn't look at all she couldn't do, she looked at all she could.
When the service finally picked Katherine up that evening, neither Melinda or I wanted her to go. After she left, I remember bursting into tears. I was so moved by this woman in a wheelchair. Whatever problems or challenges I had that day, or since, couldn't compare to Katherine's.
It's so easy to buy into the negative and moan about what we don't have, but in the grand scheme of things, we're incredibly blessed to have what we do.
Working in customer service, I get a lot of exposure to people who focus on the negative and want to blame everyone around them because their lives aren't perfect. Saturday night, I had one such woman on a walker who I was helping on a wheelchair lift. She complained the whole elevator ride to her seating area in the front of the loge. "Why don't you have nicer elevators? It's because you don't want handicapped people coming here isn't it? You think you're doing me a favor?" It went on and on. If you've ever been on a wheelchair lift, you know how long it takes to travel a few feet. After I escaped from her, I wondered what has made this woman so bitter. Which came first, the walker or the bitterness? I decided it was probably the bitterness.
Life will throw a lot of shit our way, but if we can maintain an open, grateful heart, we can get through it. We might even help someone else along the way.
If you'd like more information on J.R. Martinez, check out his website by clicking here.