He was just a teenager having fun.  He just didn’t know how shallow it was.  He did exactly the wrong thing, tucked his chin down and dove in.  That was twenty-five years ago.  He was eighteen years old when it happened.

By now he doesn’t really consider the life he might have had, who he might have been had that day so long ago gone differently.  He is who he is, and he doesn’t dwell on what might have been.

We attended our local Parkinson’s Disease Support Group meeting last evening.  Rod Kelley was the speaker.  He was in a manual wheelchair, with very limited use of his hands.  He drove to the meeting and spoke with honesty and confidence.  While his was the result of a diving injury (shattered C6), his journey contained elements that resonated with those gathered there.

Rod spoke of the wonderful cocoon of support that surrounded him after the accident and his return after many weeks of rehabilitation.  He was accepted back into his circle of friends.  If anything it was expanded as people came out to join in the project of helping him.

As time went by and others moved on with their lives, the reality of what was lost sunk in as he attempted to make a new life for himself, forced to take a different path from the one he was on before the accident.  At that point a bout of depression set in.  It was some straight truth from his Mother that broke through to the heart of his will to live life to the fullest refusing to be defeated by his uncooperative limbs.

What struck me as I listened to him was that the key to his choosing life was a simple acceptance of himself just as he was.  That acceptance freed him to grow and challenge the limitations.

He shared that often his speaking engagements are with Children and Youth.  Having worked with Youth for almost half of my ministry, I remember just how those I served struggled to find self-acceptance.  Many were terrified of not being accepted by others to whom they gave the power to determine their value.  Most sought to discover exactly what to say and do, what to wear, how to wear their hair, with whom to be seen, so that they would not become the object of derision, or worse yet, simply a cipher.

Rod’s message of finding self-acceptance in the body of a Quadriplegic seems to me to have potential for freeing those who see themselves as unacceptable for any reason.

Mary Ann has had to find a way to accept her value having lost many of the abilities that had provided a sense of worth.  In her case, the Parkinson’s provided the challenge to her self-acceptance.  She seems to have done remarkably well at moving through her days with a certain confidence about who she is.

When I retired, I began a journey toward a new understanding of myself that did not revolve around my profession.  The journey toward self-acceptance is not over.

Each of us as we move from one time to another in our lives, leave behind certain abilities, relationships, untraveled paths.  We all need to find the way to some level of self-acceptance to be free to live.

The courage of a Quadriplegic informs all of us as uncooperative limbs cease to define his worth and value.  He is what he is.  Knowing that, he has become more than he could have imagined.

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