About Thirty Years


Thirty years is a long time, or it’s the blink of an eye.

A few days after my injury I asked a doc for an honest prognosis. He said, “You’re 36 years old. You’ll probably make it to 40, but most likely not to 50.”

Well, I wanted honest. I really didn’t mind his blunt assessment, because at that point death seemed better than life with paralysis. So from the beginning I believed my wheelchair and I were involved in a short-term relationship. The great Mickey Mantle said, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” Thirty years into my wheeled life, I understand his thinking.

If I knew that doc’s prediction was so wrong and I would still be rolling around, perhaps I’d have taken my recovery more seriously. Perhaps I’d have worked harder at physical therapy, been more active, and progressed a bit further. Instead, I spent those first years waiting for the whole nightmare to end.

Apparently God had other ideas.

That’s the story of RELENTLESS GRACE. While I tried to quit, God continued to send people who refused to allow me to give up on myself. They helped me return to teaching and build a rewarding career working with amazing students, parents, and colleagues. They pushed me onto my first handcycle and urged me to keep cranking when it made no sense.

You’re a big part of that story. I’m grateful for all of your kind comments on last week’s 30-year anniversary piece. Your support and love has encouraged me more than you know.

So much of what’s happened: Rich’s Ride and an impossible 1500-mile Mississippi River tour, other tours across the U.S., and now the FREEDOM TOUR, it’s all stuff I never could have imagined. As He often does, God gave me much more than I deserved. He gave me what I needed before I was smart enough to know I needed it.

Not sure where we go from here, but I’ve learned you and I can choose either to live in circumstances or to live with vision. In Bob Goff’s words, “Faith isn’t figuring out what we’re able to do, it’s deciding what we’re going to do – even when we think we can’t.”

It’s tempting to fall back to run-out-the-clock mode again. Nothing wrong with acknowledging the reality of 30 years. I have noticed lately that people my age are getting older, but I hope I’m not quite ready for the sidelines.

So let’s keep sharing this journey of hope and see what God’s got waiting around the next corner.