August 29, 2004
Months ago, I promised I would honor my pledge to whomever won the bid on 30 minutes of ego-feeding (E.F.ing) from the Toastmasters Chamber Club 540 auction in the spring of 2004. Though you bid and paid for the privilege, you have steadfastly stalled on my ability to fulfill my promise. So, big guy, I’m taking matters into my own hands.
I think you joined Toastmasters before I did back in November 2003. I cannot remember a meeting you were not present and adding your special touch, both humorous and wry, helping us to see the world from your perspective. You pushed yourself hard to accomplish the minimum 10 speeches required for the first award of Toastmasters. You achieved it. Step by step, with crutches and without, showing us how it was done.
Throughout your speeches you continually brought us to understand what it is to live with disability, sometimes with a humor that pierced as much as it entertained, and sometimes with a sudden shock of fierceness when the humor dropped away and we could see the price you pay every day, every hour, every time you need a parking spot and someone has parked without the requisite handicapped license. The customs of Toastmasters, always standing when speaking, walking to the podium, shaking hands, an insistence on gestures, props, etc. have cost you and we all watched you pay it 10 times 10.
The highlights of some of your speeches still bring a smile to my face while keeping my empathy awake. You spoke of your two crutches as companions, so much so you gave ‘em names. You spoke of the difficulty of having grown accustomed to a certain style of crutch and the difficulty when your favorite style was discontinued. Your request to friends to keep their eyes open for the type and your desire to buy enough so that if you lost one, you could go on. I remember you talking about wanting to swim in the ocean, and when a wave knocked you over, you trying to stave off your friends’ attempts to grab you and shouting for them to save the crutches.
The speech where you focussed on the art of whining. Not too much, not too often, but enough to truly capitalize on the benefits.
Many times you asked me to find you on Wednesdays (or maybe days) at 3:30 when you met with your boss. To casually drop by and pay my contract by saying what a good man you are. To my regret, I could not do this because I had begun working 50 miles away and sometimes I didn’t get home until 8:30 p.m. In truth, Ron, I found it hard to believe you would need someone to tell your employer how lucky they were to have you. Perhaps you see yourself differently at Toastmasters than during the daily grind of working. I don’t even know what you do for a living.
At the time of writing this, you’ve had a bad week. You told me that you had interviewed for a job and not won it. For me, the answer was clear. There was something better coming and this delay was to make sure you were available to take it. Now, I know from personal experience that when I’m down, I don’t want to hear that hey, it’ll work out, there’s a plan, blah-blah, blah-blah, blah. Yuck. I want to howl in outrage and I want everyone howling on my behalf. On the other hand, I find myself hoping that the person is right, sometimes clinging by my fingernails to the idea that I’ll get a job and be successful. And, sometimes, just hoping I’ll get a job. By now, you should know I’m one of those obnoxious people who believe in tomorrow. Not every day. Let’s be honest here. But, eventually, I always shake myself and say ENOUGH. Then I shake my fist and say, “I exist for a special purpose. I EXIST, world. Hear me! I am not done yet.” As a friend and a witness to your journey, I hope you can get to that point and come off the wall your back is pressed against and show us how it is done. You have faced so much worse every day. I know. My brother has a saying, “It’s never the elephants that get you, it’s the ants.” Or, as my sister-in-law put it, “Why are you being so mean to me. I’m a good person. I recycle.”
I want to urge you to remember who you are. You are the man who learned how to ski. God. I don’t know where you found the guts. I spent more face time down in the snow than I ever spent upright. I’m the one who held up the lift because my mind said, “Okay, push off,” and my feet said, “No. Not a chance. Freeze!” My feet won. Yours never do. Step by step you have made giant strides.
It may not feel like it, but the spirit you show us every Tuesday, is what keeps us going, too. Stay strong, stay true to what keeps you going. I believe in you. We believe in you.
Note: December 15, 2013 – I wanted to demonstrate what I meant by writing a letter of appreciation to someone as a Christmas gift, especially if you were broke and could only afford words. This is from long ago and I had no memory of it, yet there it was in my files. I have not thought of Ron in years and yet, this letter brought him to mind vividly. I hope this finds you doing well, Ron. Best ~ HuntMode