Lessons Learned From Life’s Challenges
When I was a child, my father would frequently bring clients home for dinner or at times we traveled to out-state Nebraska to visit clients and their families living in towns around the state. Long before there was a Privacy Act, my father was the director of the Easter Seal Society in Nebraska. His role with the agency was to raise monies to provide services to children with physical disabilities. Part of his responsibilities also entailed his networking with many adults throughout the state, some of them also with physical disabilities.
Growing up, my brother and I shared meals with individuals from age 6 to 66 who had some form of physical challenge. I have clear memories of meeting the Easter Seal Poster child at the Governor’s mansion. She was 6 years old at the time and a survivor of polio. What I remember most about her was, despite her leg braces and crutches, she could almost run the halls at the mansion.
I remember the county treasurer of Adams County. In those days there were no such things as handicapped-accessible buildings. I have a strong recollection of seeing him use a makeshift ramp and the handrail at the courthouse to pull himself and his wheelchair up the steps to the entrance of the building.
I also recall the young woman, also a polio survivor, who despite her difficulties with walking, became a concert pianist and attended the Julliard School of Music. My parents and I attended a concert at the home of her grandparents in Ogallala. It was the first time I had ever heard music on a grand piano and I don’t think a concert at Carnegie Hall could have sounded any sweeter.
At the time of these experiences, I did not make a connection to the life lesson that my father was trying to teach me, but today I can look back and see what I leaned from the lives of these individuals. What my father had discovered is that in any adversity, whether it is physical, emotional or situational, an underlying strength can develop. All of the people I met through my father’s work had developed skills such as tenacity, determination and perseverance.
Over the years the reminder of this lesson has played itself out many times in both my personal and professional life. Today in my own life, as well as in my work, I hang onto the message of this lesson, as it is a message of hope and transcendence. It speaks to the human condition that whatever the universe hands out in the form of challenges, we can develop inner strength and new skills to carry us forward.
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