Posts Tagged attitude
He walked right up to me, shook my hand and welcomed me to the stadium. I was on a recruiting visit with my son at a large nationally ranked football program, and though we had never met him before, the record-setting starting quarterback was extremely friendly and generous with his pre-game time. A couple of his coaches and teammates also stopped by or waved my direction.
I’m sufficiently self-aware to recognize that my wheelchair, rather than my good looks, probably attracted the extra attention. I’m certain that I wasn’t mistaken as a recruit.
There was a time that I was ashamed to use my wheelchair – I can walk, after all – but using the chair has more than the obvious benefits, like moving comfortably and quickly to places that would otherwise be impossible. From that chair, I see incredible kindness in strangers – kindness that few people get to see, like that scene in the stadium.
People rush to open doors, to greet me and to ask if they can help in any way. Strangers have bought me drinks and insisted that I cut in line.
Despite the discord that captures headlines, using a wheelchair has shown me that most people genuinely care about others. Last month, I wrote about an awkward exchange with a stranger in a Las Vegas elevator, but that happens far less than the other side of the spectrum. More often, people go out of their way to be friendly and welcoming to me, and I truly appreciate that.
I’m still not completely comfortable in the chair, and only use it for longer distances or challenging terrain. On short walks, like into the gym or church, I walk unassisted. If it’s unfamiliar terrain, I use my “stick.” (I still can’t bring myself to call it a cane, and it really is a shooting stick that doubles as a walking stick.)
Physically though, I’m much more comfortable off my feet. When I’m on my feet and moving, my eyes focus on the ground in front of me, as I scan for slick spots or impediments that might knock me over. Because my attention is elsewhere, I can appear aloof and unapproachable when I’m walking, making it hard for me to notice strangers as much more than potential impediments. Most strangers react instinctively to my body language and give me space. The chair changes all of that.
Psychologically, I’m getting more comfortable using the chair when I have to, because I’ve learned that people are far less bothered by the chair than I am.
Ironically, I was more anxious in the chair in front of friends and family than in front of strangers. Walking around with a limp for nearly my entire life has numbed me to the stares of strangers. It was harder for me to succumb to the chair in the presence of people who have known me for years. It’s not like they didn’t know that I had a handicap, but it was important to me to show that I wasn’t that abnormal, especially to people who I have walked beside for years.. Hell, I hunted, skied, golfed and ran beside some of these people before the wear and tear of awkward movement made that impossible. I worried that somehow my relationships would change with the new limitations. Fortunately, using the chair has only improved my relationships.
For the last few years, I would skip games and other outings, because the walking they required made me uncomfortable during them and miserable afterward. I don’t have that problem in the chair, and my friends and family realize that and they are thankful that I was able to set my ego aside and ride. I have even relented and let some people push the chair. That was a big step for me, especially with my childhood friends with whom I used to compete for male dominance. None of have them have shown the discomfort I feared, and they all are eager to help.
Again, I’d much prefer a life without the occasional use of the chair, but that wasn’t the fate I was handed. Accepting that fate with a positive attitude has been rewarded with an enhanced feeling and appreciation of kindness that I otherwise wouldn’t have enjoyed.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be in a wheelchair to enjoy and spread kindness, but you might have to consciously participate. Just slow down and take the time to be kind and appreciate kindness. In short order, you’ll find that kindness requires little investment and pays huge dividends.
One of my recruiters told me that he shields himself from disappointment by not getting his hopes up. He rationalizes that if he doesn’t get his hopes up, he doesn’t get disappointed when things don’t work out. If he finds success, he’s happy, because he didn’t expect it. When he fails, he’s already prepared for it.
I thought about him the other day as I spent yet another day hunting wild turkeys without success. Because of my history of unsuccessful turkey hunts, as I crawled into the blind, doubt dominated my thoughts, though I had reason for hope. My dad and son had already filled their tags, and the setup was perfect, but so too were many of the setups from which I’ve hunted in the past 16 years. I loaded my gun from the only box of turkey ammunition I ever bought, when I still lived in North Carolina. The brass on those shells is tarnished and dented from being loaded and unloaded countless times over the years. I’ve fired exactly two shells from that box at the only turkey I’ve taken, and that was more than 10 years ago.
As the hours slipped by, my limited hope became buried under doubt. Finally, I unloaded my gun and called for the truck to come pick me up. I wasn’t upset – it was a beautiful day to be in nature – but my enthusiasm for turkey hunting took yet another beating, as it would next week too.
Would the result have been easier to accept if I expected failure? I considered that as I watched the truck approach. Maybe I was expecting failure and actually attracting it through the law of attraction? I didn’t want to acknowledge that, but it’s very likely true.
Being positive takes considerable effort, especially when you have a history of failure, like I do with turkey hunting. Though they aren’t easy to get and keep, positivity and its younger brother persistence are very often keys to success.
Want proof? Read this article about Jeremy Hazelbaker who now plays baseball in the major leagues for the St. Louis Cardinals. The 28-year-old rookie spent the past seven-plus years playing minor league baseball, watching some of his teammates get called up to the major leagues, but watching far more of them quit the game after being cut. He himself was cut last spring, and after not getting any other offers, began to consider life after the game. Though the future looked grim, he didn’t give up and continued his workouts.
Less than a year after being cut, he got hits in all four of his plate appearances in his very first major league game at the Cardinals’ stadium. He was the first Cardinal in history to achieve that feat.
Hazelbaker still isn’t a starter on the team, and his early success hasn’t carried over into the rest of the season, but he is doing what would have been impossible had he lost positivity and persistence. During those seven minor league seasons and 751 minor league games, I imagine that he occasionally felt like I have felt during my turkey hunting career. He probably still worries about the next call to the coach’s office and trip home, but he isn’t letting that rob him of happiness.
To achieve our major league dreams, we have to quit expecting failure and work to retain our positivity and persistence, even when things don’t go our way. That’s where things get tough. When faced with the familiarity of our earlier failures, we’re tempted to anticipate them. We run for shelter at the slightest rumble of thunder, when we should be looking for blue sky. Yes, we might get a little wet, but it also might just be the time that the skies clear and our goals appear.
Living that way, anticipating success, is a much better way of living than trying to shield yourself from disappointment by expecting it.