I’ve often been inspired by the courage and general goodness I’ve seen among people who have faced severe challenges in life due to physical and mental disabilities. Regarding those with mental disabilities, one LDS man with significant experience serving and working with them told me that “they are happier than we are.” In general, the people with mental disabilities that he knows and works with are not obsessed with the vain things of the world, nor filled with the pride and arrogance that withers the minds of so many of us. So who should be learning from whom?
Overcoming physical disabilities is a topic also rife with inspirational examples. The story of Emmanuel Yeboah (featured prominently in today’s Investors’ Business Daily) is one that inspired me greatly. Emmanuel was born with a missing tibia, giving him only one leg to walk on. His mother told him to take him to the forest to die or to just kill him (the Planned Unparenthood folks have an office in Ghana, I guess), but she refused to. His father thought the family had no chance with a disabled son like that, so he abandoned his son and wife. But his mother taught him to press forward in life and be his best, and not to beg. Emmanuel went on to bring hope to millions in Ghana as he undertook a heroic bicycle journey across Ghana using only one leg to pedal. His mission garnered international attention and he continues to be a significant figure helping the huge population of disabled people in Ghana and elsewhere. The trailer for Emmanuel’s Gift gives a short overview of what Emmanual Yeboah has accomplished.
The disabilities and trials that we are given in life are sometimes opportunities and blessings, if we will only let the Lord work his wonders through us. And for the parents of those with severe disabilities, whose lives become lives of unseen compassion and service, I have also seen remarkable transformations that this experience has brought into their lives.
How silly our focus on status and material goods will seem one day. May we work to be the people we are meant to be, to serve and love one another, and to learn lessons from those who face physical and mental disabilities (far less harmful than the self-inflicted spiritual disabilities of those who seem whole).