As I walked, err rolled, along the sidewalk with Charlie, my neice and my nephew, a man and his wife walked by, smiled and said hello as they passed. The man had a very kind expression and we locked eyes for a moment. The kids and I continued on our way to the park, laughing and chatting as we went. A couple minutes later, the man and his wife came running back. The man blurted out, “What happened to you?” He quickly realized that came out a little inappropriate and fumbled as he tried to find the right words. “I mean, why are you in the wheelchair? Um, how are you so happy?”
I was caught off guard and smiled forgivingly as I knew exactly where he was going with this conversation. Ironically (actually just the way it was supposed to happen) I had just been working on an article before we left the house about how perspective empowers you to control the kind of life you will live. I summed up the story of my accident and then I held up my hand in a tight fist and said, “I hold all of the power to be happy right here in the palm of my hand. I can turn any situation a million different directions by changing my perspective lens. I can be bitter about my accident and angry at everyone because of it. I can allow that anger to hold me back from following my dreams or trying new things, and wake up each day with sadness in my heart. OR, I can choose to see each and every blessing that has come from my injury. I can fill my heart with gratitude for being able to live in Hawaii, which most likely would not have even been an option if I wasn’t injured. I can use my disability to my advantage and make it my platform for writing and speaking. I can wake up each day and decide it will be a good day, for I believe there is no such thing as bad days, only tough moments”.
I looked up and he was tearing up. His wife had turned her head away and I could see she was crying. I said, “I can tell something has happened and you are searching for answers and comfort. I can also see so much love between you, and you can choose to allow this experience to bring you closer together, making your relationship stronger than you ever imagined. Once you get through this time, you will be able to get through anything because you know you went to hell and back, and survived”.
He was clearly touched by my words and proceeded to tell me how he lost his vision in one eye from a surfing accident only 3 months ago. He was so upset by it and was filled with questions of why it happened. He just didn’t understand. It was hurting them both so much, and she didn’t know how to be there for him. Then their son rolled up on his skateboard. He was a sweet kid and only 11 years old. I told him about what my disability has done for my son and his compassion, and that I had no doubt it would actually make their son a better young man by going through this as well.
They both thanked me and I was so moved to see them leaving with completely different energy than they started with. They were filled with hope and I could tell they felt empowered to choose how they would look at his accident. Even if it just changed how they felt as they went to sleep that night, it was worth every second of that conversation. I know changing your perspective doesn’t happen over night, and it is a constant effort to choose to be happy, optimistic and grateful. However, with time it becomes your regular lens through which you see everything.
I’m so grateful that family came across my path, and I know it was not by chance. I know it wasn’t just a coincidence I had been writing about the power of perspective before my walk that evening. I know this is all part of my purpose, my reason for what as happened to me and the reason I am not yet walking. I know having my disability so visible makes it so these types of connections can take place, and I’m grateful for it. I choose to see situations like this as a gift, a sign I am rolling in the right direction and a motivation to give it everything I have.