No matter our positions in life; fully-abled or limb-different, rich or poor, we’re all victims of our own minds, occasionally. It usually takes something basic to remind us how good we have it in comparison to someone or something else. Simply put: the good days and the bad days. In these days, perspective matters.
This past summer, I was again finding myself on the way to Southern Illinois for my fifth NubAbility camp to coach more kids in adaptive wrestling and grappling. Having it been my fifth camp, by now, I thought I’d seen all the sights and heard all the stories. Again, I was wrong.
It’s always my favourite time of year and something I look forward to all year round. It’s only a few days long, but the relationships in which you can build in those few days with fellow coaches, families and campers is something special on its own. Meeting kids just like yourself and providing somewhat of a beacon of hope and sigh of relief that their little stud is going to be okay is an emotion that is quite difficult to explain.
Since the Broyles family arrived with little Lacie in 2016, each and every year there are more and more kids coming to camp with club hand/radial dysplasia and every year I never expect it. It’s still mad the feeling I get to this day when I see a camper and get to say to myself “Oh, they’ve got a hand just like mine!” Believe me, it’s not just the kids and parents that feel excitement.
This year, after the annual shoe-tying competition - that continues to put me to shame with a slower-than-a-snail pace to the point where a one-handed, six-year-old can tie their shoelaces fifteen seconds faster than myself – all families traditionally come together and find the coach with the same limb-difference as them.
I saw familiar smiling faces coming towards me for a big hug in the celebratory annual reunion. This year, I was introduced to another little girl in our group; four-year-old Molly. After her father Sean explained her story, it was a tale I could not stop thinking about for the rest of the week and, still one month on, has stuck in my mind.
As her father explained, Molly was a Chinese adoptee. As well as having bi-lateral radial dysplasia, Molly is also deaf. At only a few weeks old, Molly’s little self was dumped in a forest in China as, with the way of Chinese culture, her quality of life would not be high.
Fortunately, her amazing little self survived and was found, eventually meeting her amazing now-father Sean who has provided her with a beautiful way of life.
As we sat to help her learn the fundamental skill of tying her shoes in which she tried and tried and will get eventually, the emotion I felt was overwhelming. I don’t think I’ve ever met a braver, tougher little girl in my life. It weighed on my mind heavily and, on a few occasions, choked me up to talk about.
As aforementioned: Perspective. You cannot feel for your own issues when you hear a tale as extraordinary as this. The clarity in which it puts your situation is outstanding.
I left NubAbility camp again with a fuller heart and a clearer mind from the week long journey we had all participated in and journeyed down to Tennessee with the Broyles family to see more of the United States.
Since meeting the Broyles crew in 2016 through their little daughter Lacie, we’ve become quite close. Through FaceTimes and regular updates, a week down in Tennessee was more than welcomed by all and this Englishman found out just how special southern hospitality is.
Whilst it allowed a fun week of activities and sightseeing, it allowed more time than ever before for questions, tutorials and bonds to build – even if Lacie did make me sound like I was from outer space!
This trip again made me feel so fortunate and lucky to have the limb-difference I have. Whilst throughout the twelve months away from the camp life may have its days of unwelcomed stares and mental questions of ‘why me?’, it’s down to the perspective given to me by my parents’ upbringing that I have the opportunity to see more of the world.
I’m so thankful for my difference. If it wasn’t for my difference, I would not have met so many people all around the world. I would not be helping others younger than me and families have an easier time with what can be a rare difference.
There are seven billion people out there. All of which experience every day in a different way; be it positive or negative. Each day I think of stories like Molly’s and what, at four years old, she’s already overcame and, you know what? It makes me feel all the much better. The odds are seven billion to one – be sure someone out there is always having a worse time.
To quote the infamous movie ‘Joe Dirt’ as shown to me in by my Tennessee family:
“Life’s a garden. Dig it.”