Don't you just love when you hear an inspirational story on the news? One that makes you stop and really listen even though you thought you were listening before? This morning there was a story about a 16 year old girl named Charlotte Brown who recently made it to the state championships as a pole vaulter. The inspirational factor that she calls non-relevant is that she is legally blind.
“I think a disability is something that stops you or limits you from being able to do the things that you want to do,” Charlotte said. “This story isn’t about me. It’s about all people that struggle with something. I think everyone struggles with something in life. This was my something.”
Where she could once make out light and dark and run next to a lighter colored turf to make out the runway, Charlotte no longer even has that ability.
I understand why she calls her blindness non-relevant; it does not define her or her abilities. But the reason I would say it is relevant has nothing to do with her. Her blindness is relevant to us, to the people that see her as an inspiration. The relevance is in her not seeing her blindness as an obstacle. We need that insight because it pushes us; it reminds us of what other people go through on a daily basis. I have had a week of physical obstacles and, while I try to repeat positive affirmations in my head as much as I can, I can easily see how someone could get brought way down by their situation. Seeing Charlotte's story this morning reminded me that if she can blindly jump 12' 6" into the sky by placing the end of a pole in a specific area on the ground, I think I can handle my own issues.
Her father mentioned a conversation he had with her when she competed for the first time in 8th grade...
"Can you see the box where you plant the pole?" he asked.
"No, Dad," Charlotte replied.
"Can you see the bar you have to get over?" he wondered.
"Uh, no," Charlotte said.
"How about when you get over the bar, can you see the pit where you land?" he asked.
"Nope," she said.
"I was like, 'Well, I have concerns." "And she was like, 'Great, now get out of the way.'"
Obstacles are funny things. To me, just one of those factors would have been enough, but I don't have the desire to attempt to shove myself off the ground. Is it possible that the amount of desire one has for something determines, to some degree, the size of their "obstacles? It is definitely a mind-set and a heart-set. We have got to stay on top of keeping our head in a positive frame of mind. Reminders, mantras and stories like Charlotte's can help. Without them and without a strong sense of will like she has, it is way too easy to fall into victim mode and stay there. Because, trust me, there's a lot of company in victim mode!
In the news story, they mentioned that once Charlotte had asked her dad if he could have any wish, what would it be? And he said I would give you my eyes. In an instant, she responded, I don't need them. She said, "Dad, if you're 12, 13 feet in the air and falling through the sky and something goes wrong, good vision will not help you."
As you might expect, Charlotte's other senses, have kicked in to help her out. Here are some examples listed in the news story:
-She can hear a phone ringing in someone's pocket from across a gym. I can't hear mine half the time when it is in my purse!
-She knows when her coach is approaching by the sound his warm-up pants make when he walks from across the football field.
-"She can hear the revolver turning inside the piston before it fires"
-The beepers she uses on the track are such a high frequency that only she can hear them.
-"Her sense of hearing is just scary," her father said. "This fall at a football game my son was playing in, we were all in the bleachers and there were bugs flying around the lights. Two rows in front of Charlotte was her grandmother and she said, 'Nanny, there's a bug on your back.' We asked, 'How did you know that?' and she said, 'I could hear it land.'"
-In sixth grade, she played basketball by memorizing the court and counting the steps. But her sense of touch kicked in as she could feel the painted lines beneath her shoes.
-Her sense of smell heightened as well; "She can go to the soft-drink aisle at the store and pick out her favorite flavor of Gatorade by smelling it through the plastic."
Charlotte said, "while I suppose I can say it sucks not knowing what's going to happen with my vision, if I can't control and change what happens, I might as well adapt with a smile on my face."
All I can think of after reading that is Dr. Darren Weissman's famous saying, "Infinite love and gratitude."