Kathleen Delaney, author of And Murder for Dessert and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. Her long time love of small towns sent her looking through the Carolina’s for a new place to settle, Gaffney. Limestone College, a delightful historic district, and a great library immediately drew her in. She lives in a wonderful 100 year old house, with a wrap around front porch, where she can while away a summer afternoon, and a big office, lined with bookcases, where she can spend her days writing. And, as always, reading.
Today, Kathleen is here with a tale of inspiration that’s, well, inspiring for so many reasons.
I followed the results of the Paralympics, the games for handicapped people that recently ended in London, with great interest. One of the participants, who has CP, was interviewed on the BBC. He bemoaned the fact that the announcers for the games kept calling each event and the people who ran, wheeled, swam, floated or otherwise took part, inspiring. His point was that they weren’t doing brain surgery, saving the world from starvation, finding a cure for cancer; they were just struggling not to fall out of their wheelchairs while they kept the volleyball in the air. He said people found it “inspiring” that he could get dressed in the morning, get a meal, and do other every day things. That those things weren’t inspiring.
He’s wrong. I can understand where he’s coming from, he wanted people to be inspired because of the outstanding things he’s accomplished but he’s still wrong.
About three years ago I went into the hospital with two legs and after an extended stay, returned home with one. Inspiration of any kind was the last thing on my mind. Trying to cook dinner while in a wheel chair, fold sheets and get them back on the bed, get in and out of a bathtub, try not to fall over while I stood on one leg to put on my pants were the things I thought about. Suddenly, I was looking at a lifetime of struggle just to do everyday things. I didn’t feel inspired to do anything. I felt defeated. I’ll never forget the day I got my first artificial leg. Jeff, the man who makes the legs, came to therapy to fit it. He and the therapists stood me up, held me on each side and encouraged me to take a step. I couldn’t lift it. Just plain couldn’t. Somewhere, something in my brain said, “Something wrong. That’s not your leg. I can’t lift this one.”
“You can do this,” Jeff said. “It’s hard now, but keep trying. Take it a step at a time.”
Now, Jeff is also an amputee. Has been for years. He has a wife, family, a thriving business, and he walks. e smiled ate’s wrong.
He smiled at me, I gulped, and eventually that day took a step. He inspired me. Not to cure cancer, which would indeed be nice, but to do an every day ordinary thing I’d done for more years than I’m going to admit to. He didn’t know it, or if he did, he didn’t think much about it. But I did.
Since then I’ve learned to walk, go to the gym for strength and balance twice a week, swim twice a week and have learned to get into and out of the pool without help. That one took awhile. At first, I went to another town that had a lift chair for handicapped. I used it to get in and out, thinking that was my life from now on. No hotel swimming pool, no going in my brother’s pool and of course no hot tub. I was handicapped. Then one day I saw a man getting in and out without the lift. I asked him how he did it. I didn’t get a very clear answer but then, I didn’t really need one. I watched him. He did it. So could I. I never saw that man again and he will never know how much he inspired me, but he did. He changed my life a little. Not a lot, but a little. He gave me the resolve to take one more step toward independence.
I was in physical therapy for some time. I’m sure there are some people who just take off after a trauma like loosing a leg, but I wasn’t one of them. I had to learn to do a whole lot of things all over again. There were always several people in the therapy room, recovering from a variety of illnesses. One man in particular caught my eye. He was a parapalegic. He couldn’t even hold up his head without a brace. But, he could move his fingers, and did. He drove hise drove his motorized wheelchair like he was trying out for Nascar. Now, this man didn’t do one thing to be inspirational. In fact, he was down right surly. But, he was determined. And he made progress. Not a lot, but some. By the time I could walk, he could hold his head up with a little help. When I finally learned to climb stairs, he could move his wrist. Not earthshaking, for either of us, but his grim determination inspired me to try harder. I never told him so, though. He probably would have run me over if I had.
Inspiration doesn’t come just from handicapped people, nor does it come only from the pulpit or from motivational speakers or politicians. For writers, inspiration comes from people’s stories, happy and sad, funny or tragic and our need to tell those stories. Inspiration to do better in your job or to train to get a better one can come from something as simple as a smile and a “well done.” Inspiration to be a better, happier person can come from viewing someone as surly as my friend from therapy, who, although he had every reason to be miserable, being nice was the one thing he wasn’t determined to try. Know someone who has every reason to be happy and prefers to wallow in self pity? We all know people like that. If they don’t inspire you to tighten your belt, take stock of what’s good in your life, and smile, I don’t know what will.
Inspiration comes in many forms, big and little, profound and mundane and adversity is relative. So, if one person thinks its inspiring that another can fry an egg while confined to a wheel chair, they may be inspired to try something they thought they couldn’t do, or if they see someone who has every excuse to scowl, smile instead, it just might make them a little more aware of the blessings in their own life.
There are lots of things to master after egg frying. All it takes is a little inspiration.