The past few months have had me repeatedly saying, “I can’t wait to ______ when I’m no longer deaf and have new lungs.” I’ve had this weird mindset that everything in my life needs to be put on hold while I struggle with these physical disabilities, especially the deafness. I’ve been feeling like the only way to progress is for my body to be “fixed.” It’s not that I’m being lazy. The thing is, I’m so afraid. I’m afraid to try new things and meet new people because I feel like my body is just going to let me down. I get anxious just ordering coffee because I dread having to guess which follow-up questions the barista will ask: “Milk? Sugar?” “Brad.” “What?” “Oh, are you not asking for my name?” A few times a day, I get so humiliated, I have to go find a private space to compose myself and slow my pounding heart. I have my parents say my order at restaurants/coffee bars, I’m afraid to look for jobs, the idea of visiting a church makes me so anxious. Some days, I don’t even want to leave my room. I want to just stay tucked in my comfy hotel bed and waste the day away watching Netflix (captions on).
You know who else wanted to live in isolation and not take risks for fear of humiliation? Moses. When God told him to go free His people, Moses’ big excuse was that his speech impediment would get in the way of fulfilling any plans God had. The response is simple, yet so powerful:
“The Lord said to him, ‘Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and teach you what to say.’” -Exodus 4:11
I am deaf and my lungs are weak, but God says, “Now go.” Go. So simple. Don’t sit idly. There is a purpose for my disabilities, and it isn’t for me to be weak and afraid. Disabilities can even be an advantage, to press me to work harder. I watched that movie, “Queen of Katwe” a few days ago, and the chess coach told a story about a dog chasing a cat. The cat was able to get away and the dog wondered why. According to the coach, it was because the dog was just running for a meal. The cat was running for its life. In a time where odds are stacked against me, I need to be running faster than I ever have before.
One of my favorite things about studying history is learning about remarkable characters that have performed extraordinary feats. I’ve found that many people don’t feel a real connection with the people they learn about in history. These historical figures seem as real as characters in fiction books. But when you think really hard and focus on the idea that these people were real, I think you will find yourself feeling inspired (and maybe even frightened) at what spectacular things humans can accomplish. Deaf Beethoven composing some of the greatest music on Earth, deaf-blind Helen Keller somehow “seeing” more than most humans do, deaf and learning disabled Thomas Edison teaching the world to be innovative. These people didn’t allow their disabilities to hold them back. They became some of the most incredible contributors to society. Maybe they even ordered their own coffee.
Sick of hearing about the current presidential candidates? Here’s something refreshing: Woodrow Wilson was dyslexic, JFK was extremely sickly, FDR was paralyzed by polio. Then you have my favorite: Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. A sickly young dude with asthma, he wasn’t expected to live very long. And if he did live, it would probably be in a bubble (metaphorical, not talking about “Bubble Boy”). Teddy devoted himself to training both mind and body for what he was confident would be an extraordinary future. He collected a plethora of titles, among them NY state representative, NYC police commissioner, Nobel Peace Prize winner, U.S. Army colonel, and president of the United States of America. He spoke French and German fluently, studied in Europe, wrote numerous literary work, and explored Africa and the Amazon. He was a superb boxer, he won a medal for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity” at the Battle of San Juan Hill, and formed the Rough Riders cavalry regiment. He settled strikes, broke up powerful trusts, and fought for desegregation. He famously gave a two-hour speech immediately after being shot in the chest. All this is just scratching the surface of what he accomplished. And the severe asthma never left him. He did all this despite physical barriers. He “should have” died young. But he never accepted that, as noted by a politician who said after Teddy’s passing, “Death had to take him sleeping, for if Roosevelt had been awake there would have been a fight.” New quote I’m living by:
“Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action.” – Theodore Roosevelet
I think of good ole’ Teddy and can’t help but get excited for what I could do with my own life. I think of Moses and feel the confidence of having God at my side. I don’t know what my big goals are right now, but that shouldn’t stop me from preparing: sharpening my mind with constant studying (don’t need hearing to read!), training my body to be in top shape for when I get new lungs, learning to experience society as a deaf person in case the cochlear implants don’t work out. I can do big things. Who knows?