Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Barrier Free City

There is a young cancer patient (mid 20s) who was on my mind in recent weeks. I met her husband during a triathlon event. I have run into them at local restaurants and they seem to have a good support group from their church. Since they were on my mind, I had called a left a message on their home phone to tell them I was praying for them and would continue to do so. She is battling her cancer well, but her illness is terminal and the end is likely in the not too distant future.
Only a couple of days after leaving the message, one of my former hospital employees came into my office to tell me about a benefit for those in our community with disabilities. Apparently, this young cancer patient had been to a Lance Armstrong cancer camp and had returned with a challenge from Lance to make our city "barrier free" allowing people with disabilities to have equal access to any venue they wish to attend. It was an audacious goal, but one this patient was passionate about accomplishing.
This event (planned in less than a month) was organized so that she could make her plea. I was asked to say a few word as a representative of the hospital. To be honest, I was reluctant to do so. On one hand, I wanted to support this patient that God had put on my mind just days before the invitation to speak, but on the other hand, I was selfish and just wanted to stay home and relax.
The pressure to do the right thing won out. I decided to attend the event and to my surprise, it was a huge success. The place was packed with what looked like at least 400 people. I saw physicians, public figures, city council and many others. What I thought was going to be a small venue where I might say a few words turned into a crowded room filled with some amazing people. None more amazing than the people in wheelchairs, those walking with assistive devices, some unable to speak, others working diligently to mumble recognizable words. Uncoordinated, disabled and incredibly courageous. These people were there because they wanted to experience more in life than what our society currently allows. It was an inspiring sight!
I had planned to say only a few words and I wanted to say only that which was most encouraging to this courageous young lady and her husband. I gave a quick personal story about how I met the husband at a triathlon and the things I learned from this little hobby of mine. Namely, I talked about the environment of a triathlon event. The amazing encouragement from spectators and competitors alike. I talked about the importace of finishing well and striving for your personal best.
It was at this point that I told the large crowd that participating in a triathlon pales in comparison to those in the room who battle a disability every day and do so with amazing courage. I talked specifically about the cancer patient I knew and what an inspiration she is to anyone who desires to make a difference, leaving a legacy and finishing the race of life well. I then asked the crowd, in the spirit of the a triathlon, to stand and cheer on this cancer patient along with each of the courageous people in the room who stand strong despite the challenges they face each day.


It was a moving experience. Moving, not because of anything I had to say. Moving because the room came alive in the celebration of lives lived well. Lives of people who face difficulties unlike many of us will ever see. Lives that refuse to give up. Lives that desire to make a difference in the world for those who have a disability that they didn't deserve and never would have chosen.
It begs the question: For those of us who have 2 arms and 2 legs, those of us who can walk and talk and experience most everything the world has to offer - Do we live life with the same zeal as those who would give anything to have what we have? Are we as passionate about making a difference in the lives of others?
And from a spiritual perspective, what if you had the answer to cure every disability seen in that room tonight? What if you could share the one thing that could make them whole?
The truth is, you can. Take a room full of well bodied adults today and most of them will have a disease of sin that will create a barrier between them and God. A disability they cannot overcome.
You have a message of good news that could make their spiritual world "barrier free". Are you telling your story with the same passion? Are you celebrating with excitement so that others might finish the race of life well?
You decide.

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