The Day I Discovered I was Disabled and Three People who Helped me Heal.

I had been traveling relentlessly and had just spent a sleepless night in a hotel room with an air conditioner that sounded like a pterodactyl with an abscessed tooth.  Now I was waiting to speak at an awards ceremony for KCARC, a wonderful caring organization dedicated to serving individuals with disabilities. A delayed flight had caused me to walk into the room just as the ceremony was beginning and I was in a nasty mood. 

About 100 in the room of 400 were affected with some form of mental or physical disability.  There was constant movement in the room as many were assisted with frequent trips to the restroom. Involuntary moans and vocal sounds echoed throughout the audience.  I grumbled inwardly thinking how all this commotion would disrupt my “important talk.”  I also noticed the lighting was poor and wondered how that would affect my “performance.”

As I ruminated on these things, the presenters called seven year old Andrew Roach to the platform.

And what was this beautiful little boy’s achievement? 

Over the past year, he’d learned to sit in his seat long enough to complete a task and he had learned to count to fifty.  As Andrew clutched his award, the look of pride on face of his parents was luminous.

Maybe I didn’t need as much light as I thought I would.

Terry Molrand received the next award for Resident of the year.  This young man’s  body was bent from Cerebral Palsy.  Although he was seated less than fifteen feet from the platform it took him nearly a minute to get there. He used a walking stick and it seemed that each step required excruciating effort.  Yet I seemed to be the only one in the room who noticed.  Terry turned to face the audience with a beaming smile that lit up the room.

I stopped thinking about lighting all together.

Terry’s smile not only lit the room it cut through the selfish and inconsiderate rumbling in my soul. After receiving his award and reveling in a barrage of flash pictures, Terry whispered something to the presenter who then announced that Terry wanted to say a few words. With a face that could barely contain his joy, Terry spoke in a strong confident voice.

“I want to thank you for this award,” he said, “And I want to thank God for another day.”

The audience rose in a thunderous ovation.  I was on my feet, applauding wildly, tears streaming down my face.

Mr Rosenburg received the next award. He had run a clothing shop in Vincennes, Indiana for forty six years and was receiving a plaque for donating a building to KCARC. Marshall his disabled adult son accompanied him to the platform.  His voice trembling with emotion, Mr Rosenburg said that shortly after becoming a resident at KCARC his son had blessed him with two simple but profound words.  “I am happy.”

I began to wonder who was disabled.

Just before it was my turn to speak, I leaned over to my host and whispered, “No message I could deliver would be more inspirational than what I have just heard.”  I had allowed a delayed flight to ruin my day while a this group celebrated a little boy’s ability to sit quietly and complete a task.  I have lamented over a missed golf game, while Terry thanks God for another day. I was the one disabled by a lousy attitude. 

The next morning, as I awoke, I acted on the lesson I’d learned from the three MEN who had received awards the night before.  The first words from my mouth were these……..

“Thank you God for another day.  I am happy!”

Tell me your story.  I look forward to your comments.

This post adapted from, A story by Ken Davis in his book “Lighten Up”  Zondervan

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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18 thoughts on “The Day I Discovered I was Disabled and Three People who Helped me Heal.

  1. Ken!

    Wow. I am disabled, too.

    The other day I was fielding communication for my daughter’s new CD, only to have an online chat with a childhood friend who also had a teen daughter. He was telling me how inspired he was about my girl’s music. So, of course I directed him to her funding campaign.

    Suddenly, I opened a website about his daughter. She was 16, been in a coma for 9 months and he was taking care of her at home. He was hurting. I was selling. Shame.

    Well, I realized how he graciously was interested in the music even with my marketing, as it was soothing to him and his mother–the girl’s grandmother–and now was utterly schooled in what was important.

    Of course, we are giving him as many copies of her CD as he wants and hoping to make it to his town to help him fund his daughter’s recovery.

    I am happy.

    Thanks for being you Ken!

    Rich

  2. Ken
    I must be a little slow. Even though I had 2 strokes before I was a month old and I walk with a limp. It I didn’t know that I had CP until I was 18 I always thought that right handed people couldn’t use their left hand. You see my parents never treated me like I was different. Even after the doctors told them to enjoy me while they could because I wouldn’t live to celebrate my 5th birthday, or after my aunt told them that they should have me institutionalized, they insisted on treating me like a normal kid. I had chores to do and I was expected to do them on time and do them right. Now I am much older and I still don’t consider myself disabled I’m now just different.
    When I married my first wife, the daughter her parents loved even though she was disabled, I knew that she was 80% deaf, had kidney problems and could never have “natural” children. She was not disabled to me. We adapted our house so that even though she was only 4’8.5” tall she could do everything a normal person could do. On our third anniversary we started to look into adoption.
    Our son William was born in Korea at 32 weeks with multiple medical problems, two of which were CP and only one working vocal cord. He was considered unadoptable. We were asked repeatedly, “Why do you want to adopt a disabled child?” and told the people want to adopt children that were exactly like them only maybe with a different hair color. That’s when I told the adoption councilor “Why can’t we wish for the same thing, a child just like us, but with different hair color?” That unadoptable child who, I was told by his maternal grandfather should be trained not educated, is now in college studying to be a social worker so that he can make sure that other parents aren’t, denied or questioned when they ask to adopt a child with Special needs.
    As you can see in Gods eye none of us are disabled we are given everything we ever need to make a difference, we may limp, have trouble hearing or speaking, but he still loves us and expects us to do his will just as he would expect “normal” people to do his will also.

    • I almost forgot(thanks to that dementia thing) to mention that after my first wife passed away I married Cindy who also doesn’t believe that either me or our son is disabled.

  3. Wow. I’ve had those moments myself Ken. Thank you for sharing this and your heart. I remember when my son was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2000. I thought my heart was going to break in a million pieces. I’ll never forget though when the doctor gave us “the statistics” not only for him but for us. The high divorce rate, substance abuse, depression and the list went on. The first thing he told me was to above all – put my oxygen mask on first. The next thing he told me was under no circumstances was I to coddle this child or I’ll cripple him. So we didn’t.

    I know more about hospitals than I ever wish to (Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth rocks by the way) — He just turned 18, has been seizure free for three years. We caught ourselves grumbling this year about how difficult it’s been to obtain a drivers license for him – the forms, the long waits, the DMV. Suddenly though, while we are sitting there waiting for him to take his test we remembered — there was a time several years ago when driving was believed to be an impossibility for him and we were considering moving into the city so that he could have access to public transportation and whatnot. That’s when we realized that sitting in the DMV was an answer to prayer. Our entire countenance changed.

    Most people take this rite of passage as a right, you know? — for us, it was an answer to prayer. He’s driving today. He’s a senior in High School and goes to Tech in the afternoons learning how to rebuild cars and well on his way to a fully functioning adult hood. He still has some bumps. But we know we’ll get through it together.

    Great post Ken.

  4. Hey Ken,

    I wish more people could learn from your experience. I was born with cerebral palsy. What most don’t realize is we are all disabled in one way or another. Just some disabilities are more visible and others are not. In my now 50 years I’ve come to believe there is no such thing as “normal” thank God. But that being said, more then that our bodies are just a vessel for the journey of life, it is a very small part of who I am. It is only part of the learning process.

    I figured God gave me this body to slow me down and help me notice the smaller things in life. I may not have the abilities of most, but the ability to go slower and notice the smaller things which has allowed me to serve God in my own special way, be there for others in the unique way that God intended.

    It’s to bad when others can not see beyond the packaging that is called my body, but that is the challenge. Sometimes I rise to the occasion and sometimes I can’t get beyond the pain of others words, but its all in the attempt.

  5. Having worked with disabled persons as a speech pathologist in my professional life, I have great appreciation for this story, Ken, as well as the comments which followed. I love you all! And Ken, I especially admire you for telling these stories about yourself. You allow God to use you so eloquently! Continued blessings upon your ministry!

  6. Many people discribe themselves as “lucky” because they don’t have a disability. But they do.
    It’s a disability of attitude. They treat disabled people with condescension and arrogance.
    Instead they should be praising God that they are healthy and need no physical assistance to go about their daily lives.
    All we want is to be treated like everyone else. Like human beings. Instead, many of us are told we won’t amount to anything. People need to drop their misconceptions and open their eyes.
    I am disabled with Spina Bifida and other health issues. I occasionally get the “poor mes” – but not as much as I used to. Why? Because I’ve found peace – through people like you, the Gaithers but most importantly – through my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

  7. Hi, what a great article. I’m glad your neighbor introduced me to your website! I have a son who is Autistic, and my 4 other children have a hard time dealing with him. After many years of being frustrated with their brother’s actions, it finally dawned on me that my happy Autistic son wasn’t the one who was disabled. It was my other children. They are the ones that need to learn tolerance, to deal with their brother. They need to learn how to accept him, how to help him, how to love him and be a good example to them. While they each have their own special needs in their own special ways- this will be one of the most important things they ever learn. And I have no doubt that when they learn this lesson, it will be something they can pass on to others.

  8. From one who is bent and twisted, with a body that’s no better I just like to say I found this touching. Thanks Ken.

  9. Dear Ken,

    Thank you for standing up for what is right & godly.

    Pat Robertson’s statement upset our church members and floored me. What happened to “for better or worse?” What happened to “caring for the least of these?” It was an answer the world would give NOT someone who is supposed to be a man of God. It is a horrific attitude.

    My Dad had prostate cancer>bone cancer and multi-infarc dementia for 2 years. Mom cared for him. I helped when I could because I lived 400 miles away. I spent the last 6-7 weeks with them. He died in 1999. We NEVER thought once about “divorcing” him and leaving him alone. He was in great pain and had many, many scary hallucinations. He was and will always be a son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather & great great grandfather. I never could have abandoned him. From March to August this year I spent taking care of my Mom who had gotten very frail and couldn’t be alone anymore. What a privilege for my husband & I to be with her on her last night. We were able to hold her hand, pray with her & just be there with her. I will NEVER regret either decision.

  10. As a mom of a disabled child, I would like to say I too am disabled. Some days I get so wrapped up in ‘woe-is-me-syndrome’ that I fail to realize what it must be like to be my daughter. Like this morning, when she woke me at 3AM, doing her scream-laugh. All I can think is I’ve had only 4 hours of sleep, and have a long day ahead homeschooling her while also watching two of my nieces who are sick. I’m watching those nieces so my sister can take her own disabled child to have an infected feeding tube replaced (that baby is 3 and has never known what it’s like to eat ice cream, enjoy a popsicle on a hot day, or even have a sip of water without so much thickener added that a spoon will stand up in it.)

    I get so frustrated sometimes. It’s so hard having a child who the ‘experts’ tell me will achieve the functional level of an 8 year old as an adult. She’s almost 8 now. Her list of diagnoses is as long as my arm, and resembles a bowl of alphabet soup.

    Thank you for grounding me, and making me remember what we work so hard for with this beautiful little red-headed fireball: the day she can sit still and count to 50.

    To God be all glory!!

  11. This was great to read, thank you for this Ken. When I look at my daughter who has downs syndrome, I am reminded what a blessing and awesome gift she is. And I find many times, that I am the one who is disabled, with a lousy attitude, and negative thoughts. But she always remains positive and loves and lives life to the fullest.

  12. Ken,
    Reading this story puts in to a better perspective of how to see all sides. I work with disabled individuals to find employment based on their abilities and interests, while yet my own list of disabilities has grown over the last year. I recently was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease, an invisable disability many don’t understand. I have desperately been job searching for the disabled individual I am working with and became so frustrated as I felt I have been getting nowhere. I saw your newsletter and decided to take a break from banging my head againist the wall. After reading the article, I realized it wasn’t my head banging againist the wall, it was my attitude. Just like you when arriving late and it was poor lighting, we both developed an “Attitudinalsclerosis” we lost our sense of humor in ourselves and at situations beyond our control while learning to appreciate others views of life. Thank you God for being here to see one more beautiful day!

  13. Wow! I am so touched by what you wrote here. Too many of us are “disabled” by the things we allow to affect our ability to enjoy G-d, people and life. Being aware of what we have and being grateful for it is so key.

    Thank you, Ken, for that reminder!