Last night my daughter, who is in a wheelchair, tried out for the musical Narnia. We have always taught her that the greatest limitation we have are those that we put upon ourselves. Will she ever be a dancer? No. Then again as a 52 year old, non dancer type, I may never be a dancer either. There are many things she will never be able to do. So she focuses on the things she can do. These are the things that are the successes in life for her. She may not get a part, but there is a 100% chance she would NOT get a part if she didn’t audition. Her list of awards in art, writing, science and history at the school, regional and state level are impressive for a 6th grader. She has not let her handicap hold her back.
I tell her that each of us has our own handicap as none of us can excel at everything. Some kids may not be as smart as her or as funny. My mother always felt handicapped when she would have to call me, with my long arms and height, to reach in the back of a shelf to grab a can of food. But overall, we all start life with similar capabilities. I have always loved the poem “Equipment” by Edgar A. Guest
Figure it out for yourself, my lad.
You’ve all that the greatest men have had;
Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes.
And a brain to use, if you be wise.
With this equipment they all began.
So start from the top, and say, “I can”.
Look them over, the wise and the great.
They take their food from a common plate.
And similar knives and forks they use.
With similar laces they tie their shoes.
The world considers them brave and smart.
But you’ve all they had when they made their start.
You can triumph and come to skill.
You can be great if you only will.
You’re well equipped for what fight you choose;
You have arms and legs and a brain to use.
And the man who has risen great deeds to do.
Began his life with no more than you.
You are the handicap you must face.
You are the one who must choose your place.
You must say where you want to go.
How much you will study the truth to know.
God has equipped you for life.
But he lets you decide what you want to be.
Courage must come from the soul within.
The man must furnish the will to win.
So figure it out yourself, my lad.
You were born with all the great have had.
With your equipment they all began.
Get hold of yourself and say “I CAN”!
As humans, we all have the same gifts or equipment. However, beyond basic equipment, we have to take advantage of the opportunities that are given us.
We can’t sit around and think about things, we must Do. We must say “I Can.” Each of us started out the same as all the great ones of the world. George Washington had two eyes, two feet and a brain. Same with Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and every great person the world has known. What made them great is what they DID. What we do with the opportunity given to us is our choice. That doesn’t mean just saying “I’m going to do something”, it’s actually doing it.
I pass this message on to all my students when they are afraid to try something new. Don’t limit themselves. For my daughter, she could sit in her wheelchair and think of all the reasons she can’t do some things. Instead, she thinks of the things she can do. It was risky and scary to try out for a musical when you can’t dance. But she did not limit herself. By the way, she got a part.