By Paula Damon
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot, British novelist
It’s been a week of discoveries best described as firsts in my lexicon of “totally awesome.” Stories, heretofore, that I had not yet traversed.
All are real-life examples I came across while minding my own business. Some, images of hope, like Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman.
As the first deaf player in the NFL, Coleman has redefined inspiration with his courageous and determined journey in a football career that led him all the way to this year’s Super Bowl XLVIII.
The success of the former UCLA running back has more than likely empowered every deaf youngster into the stratosphere of “I can do anything.”
I first encountered Coleman in the Duracell “Trust the Power Within” ad that has gone viral in recent weeks. Coleman’s voice over in the commercial goes like this: “They told me it couldn’t be done – that I was a lost cause. I was picked on and picked last.
“The coaches didn’t know how to talk to me. They gave up on me – told me I should just quit. They didn’t call my name – told me it was over.
“But I’ve been deaf since I was three, so I didn’t listen. And now I’m here with a lot of fans in the NFL cheering me on and I can hear them all.”
A powerful parallelism exists between Coleman’s life story and the life of a battery– which to me is pure poetry. Unstoppable – this new young superstar allows the most despairing among us to hope again.
Another awesome discovery was a guy I just happened to see riding through the parking lot at Hy-Vee on his belly! You heard me right. He went zipping along on gurney of sorts, which he operated manually. In tow on the rack beneath him was a hefty cartload of groceries.
With no legs and well-built upper torso and upper arms as broad as my thighs, that guy went sailing by as if nothing could stop him. With such determination and spirit, I can’t imagine that any jeering or snickering, pointing or glaring would matter to him – not in the least.
As he moved quickly through a sea of parked cars, his purpose and drive were fully on display as testimony to his mighty outlook on life. Little did he know (Or did he?) the strong sense of stick-to-itiveness he had washed over me and others.
Standing in the wake of his positive energy, I was instantaneously infused with the spirit of “never-give up” – a feeling I’ve carried with me since.
Speaking of riding, I had another amazing discovery that’s fixed way, way at the other end of the “awe” spectrum, as in “awful.” While minding my own business, I saw another guy – in same parking lot, same day. And, believe me, I wasn’t just sitting there “people watching.”
Hurrying along like my usual self, I caught a glimpse of him strutting into the store with his pants riding low, not on his hips, like some do, but midway down his thighs!
Suspended by nothing but his stride, those jeans surely would be down around his ankles in no time at all, I predicted.
Scratching my head and overcome with questions, I wondered how in the world anyone could walk around like that and be comfortable. Let’s face it. Iost of us have been in various stages of dress with our waistlines down around our thighs. And we readily testify that it’s like walking in a gunnysack bound just above the knees – going nowhere fast.
Unfortunately, when I imagine that young fellow applying for a job or trying to advance in his career, all I can see were the barriers of those low, low riders.
So while this low-riding young man is creating barriers of another kind, the first deaf player in the NFL and the guy on the gurney are both smashing barriers – seen and unseen, real and perceived, physical and emotional.