So we plan the trip of a lifetime, to take our children to Guatemala, the country their grandmother comes from. It’s two years of planning and saving to make it happen. Off we go to Central America ready to see all the sites we can get to. When we arrive, I notice something I began to take for granted in the States: no wheelchair ramps. Not to mention the boat docks have boards missing, making them unusable for wheelchairs. Paths to ruins are inaccessible unless on foot or in a four-wheel drive. Even the hotels’ sidewalks are just plan impassable for a chair.
Stairs, stairs and more stairs. Not stairs as in perfectly built to some standard code, but stairs constructed by the Mayans, who apparently had very short feet and the stepping ability of giants. Stairways are built on the sides of 2,000-year-old temples that would have a condemned sign on them back in the U.S.
Have you seen the soda commercial where a young man uses a time machine to save himself from situations like getting a drink poured over his head or getting punched? Even though the commercial is supposed to be funny and the things that the man goes back to fix are rather shallow, it made me think. What would I go back and change?
One thing, I might do: I would go back to when I was 11 or 12. I lit a fire in the field behind our house with my friend. While I knew we needed to control the fire and put it out, apparently my friend did not, because the next day he started a fire and burned several acres. It only burned the brush in the field, but I felt pretty guilty about the day before and wished I had not been playing with fire. Maybe if I had been there it wouldn’t have gotten out of control.
Perhaps I would go back to when I was a teenager. I was very awkward around girls, and when I finally got a girl-friend she didn’t really like me. She was just trying to get back at another guy by dating me. While I felt very hurt by her, it didn’t give me a reason to tell her a lie that hurt her in order to get revenge.
While I might go back to those events in my life and make them turn out differently, I know for sure I would go back to when our first child was born and tell myself three things.
I ’m no longer a young man anymore, but nor am I close to that golden age of retirement. I guess I’m somewhere in the middle, right smack dab between hopeless naiveté and full blown wisdom.
In other words, I’m young enough to try, but old enough to know better.
Some of the young man’s fight has left me. Do you remember it? Regardless of the challenge, it’s that universal gung-ho “I’m gonna change the world” type of philosophy. At times, it’s still with me, but usually where I believe I can make a difference, where I’m convinced I’m uniquely gifted.I’ve long ago abandoned chasing after the wind, trying to be the hero to each and every person or cause.If something falls outside my area of passion or skill, I’m glad to defer tackling the challenge to another more qualified person.
Those of us committed to improving the lives of those with a disability carry on because we believe we can make a difference.In fact, we’re often operating outside our comfort zone. We’re not afraid to fail. We’ll take chances and even go up against forces well outside our control and well beyond our might.Believing wholly and completely in the merits of our pursuit is not just a good reason to engage, but it’s a good enough reason to “go” even when the world and common sense says “stop.”.
Yet, every now and again, I’m stymied by some, many even our side, that blindly hold to certain principles that I really wish were true, but are not.
First:There are no evil people in the world.
Some say that people are generally good, that there is an innate sense of morality running through their veins. I really struggle with this one because I want it to be true. But as I read the newspaper or look to our world, I see terrible things happening to innocent people, entire countries starved to death by there own people. We see glaring example of the most vulnerable being abused by the very people in whom they place their trust.
I had a crazy thing happen to me this month. My middle son and daughter are in their high school’s marching band. (Don’t talk to me about how old I feel right now, with my youngest in high school). Of course, since both of them are in the band, we are heavily involved. My wife is the band boosters’ secretary and I am working in the pit crew; we carry all the equipment to the field.
This means we show up early to band events and help. A month ago we showed up for a football game because the band was playing during the game and at halftime. I was driving my truck, so I parked in an open spot a little further afield so that I would be able to fit. I was coming from work and my wife was coming from home, so we met at the school; she brought me a change of clothes so I could be warm and comfortable. I saw her pull into the parking lot and went over to her car to get my clothes. I thought I would be able to go back to my truck and change in the back seat. As I made my way to the truck I saw that the parking lot had filled around it and another truck was parked next to me. Curiously, several high school age boys were looking at my truck and pointing to the area around my driver’s side front tire. When they saw me coming they all turned and walked to the back of their truck, so I was suspicious. I unlocked my door, and as I began to pull it open it made a horrible noise. I closed the door and looked with horror at a fresh new scrape across the side of my truck.
We recently took a trip to visit colleges for our daughter. There are a few schools she’s excited about, and this was a chance to do a little exploring. It was interesting to watch these colleges put on their show for us, trying to sell us on why they are the best option for our child. They made a point of all the activities my daughter could be involved in. They showed us the dorms she would stay in, telling her how fun it is to stay in dorms, while reassuring Mom and Dad that she would be safe. They fed us in the cafeteria to make sure we liked the food; we actually heard one student say the food was better than usual on visitation day. They then had us attend a presentation about the specific major she is interested in. They got all the prospective engineers in a room and told us about the program. Meanwhile, we parents wanted to know one thing: the employment rate of kids coming out of the program.
The college, of course, is going to give you glowing numbers, and I am sure that they do everything they can to help kids get jobs. it looks great for them if they have a high placement rate. The problem with this school was that they claimed a 100% placement rate last year.
I am skeptical by nature, so I immediately scoffed at that number. How can they place everyone? I thought through the possibilities; engineers are in high demand, and the school probably uses a very generous classification to arrive at that statistic.
Another thought came into my mind, however, as I tried to rationalize the perfect placement rate. Why am I so doubtful that everyone could find a job in the field they went to school for?