My first thought was not one based on empathy; it was one of sheer admiration. Here was a disabled person who wanted to stay in the hunt, a person who saw no limitations and no boundaries that would trap him in his disability. It reminded me of the winter 22 years ago when I came off the slopes from my first experience of skiing in a sit ski, specially designed for people who cannot stand. The run was invigorating, and it tested my limits, but it was what I saw in the locker room that I'll never forget.
It was the Park City Handicapped Sports office (now the National Ability Center) locker room and full of noise, small pools of melted snow and people struggling to get into-and-out-of-boots and parkas. I remember a young woman with garbled speech and jerky movements, the result of a head injury. A volunteer led a blind 18-year-old boy around the locker room to let him oriented so he could get suited up. My own instructor, an amputee who had stepped on a land mine in Vietnam, was there as well. There were the parents, too, waiting outside as their kids came off the slopes, some of them smiling ear to ear, others tearing up as their children made it down and into their arms.
As I watched the man on the bicycle disappear around the corner, and I recalled those kids skiing down the mountain, I thought again how impressive they all were in handling adversity. It was the grace and courage that would define their lives, not the obstacles they had to overcome.
This Thanksgiving, and every day of your life, thank God you can see the sunlight as you awake, as there are those who can't. When you sit down for your meal, bow your head in thanks, for there are many who are hungry. Thank God for your family and friends, for there are many who are alone. And in our country today, there is much human suffering as millions are without jobs, so give Him thanks for yours.
Most of all, give God thanks for the hope that each day brings. For it is hope that rekindles the human spirit, helps us answer the bell every day and gives of us courage to make our own way down the mountain.
Happy Thanksgiving 2011!
By John Shuff (salt lake magazine, December 2011)
FOR THOSE WHO HAVE SUFFERED
I asked God for strength, that I am achieve.
I was made weak, that I may learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I may do great things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things...
I got nothing I asked for--but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself,
my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among men, most richly blessed!
(SEEN POSTED ON THE BACK OF A LOCKER
AT THE NATIONAL ABILITY CENTER, PARK CITY)
Humbly I bow down. Humbly I thank you for all that You have done and continue to do in my life. May Your abundant love and grace pour out to the millions.