So I am working out at my fitness center the other day feeling fairly smug that despite my profound limp and my right arm, which is mostly decorative, I was doing resistance weights just like everybody else.
Then a man hobbles to the machine next to me using a walker and carrying his water bottle in his mouth. The man’s disability makes me look like Mr. Bodybuilder. With incredible strain he pulled on the resistance machine with raw courage. As he exceeded his own natural limits I was reminded of the lesson I have had to learn and relearn all my life–someone always has it worse, always.
I remember the lesson from my youth. When I was bound in casts and braces I would frequently encounter kids who could not walk at all.
When I worked at the Minneapolis Star Tribune I would sometimes start feeling sorry for myself for either professional or personal reasons. It seemed as if every time I did, I would turn a corner and encounter a man who worked at the newspaper who used crutches with disabled arms and struggled with every step. I would invariably mutter a little prayer: “Okay God, I get it, I am really a lucky guy.”
We always had the same experience with Jason, our Down syndrome son. His behaviors often upset us but one glance at many of his peers reminded us that our burdens were small compared to some. I have found many parents of special needs children view their own challenges as routine but they feel awful for the family next door.
The human spirit is a resilient one. Rising up to our own challenges is important but respecting the journeys of other is also required because, indeed, someone always has it worse, always.