Monday, September 5, 2016

Pep Talk: "Encouragement's Magic"

A beloved buddy is suffering from early stage Alzheimer’s. It’s the first time your knucklehead scribe has intimately dealt with this terrible disease. My heart aches for those in the muck of this mind-trapping form of dementia. Their families, too. I feel blessed my 81-year-old mother is still sharp as a tack. We have lively conversations that, in describing them, one often mentions “debates” while the other prefers “arguments.”

A recent one (hey, a blind sow occasionally finds an acorn) reached common ground. Cool. Grateful also applies. We acknowledged most would trade places IN A HEART BEAT to be able to engage loved ones’ in robust conversations like we enjoy most of the time. Alzheimer’s dark and wretched march into the mind denies that. Tragic. 

So mom and son ended up talking, and surprisingly, agreeing, about the importance of realizing life rarely goes according to plan. At least not our plan. Those “What the heck is going on around here?” moments come from unexpected directions and diverse sources. They are painful. We know that. We also know how we react plays a huge role in our future. Victim or student? Our decision, choose wisely.

While these thoughts were marinating in the cranium, for whatever reason, this blurted from my mouth: “Mom, let me tell you about Rich Dixon!” I had met the amazing guy the day before.

“The first time I tried to push the wheelchair down the hall, it was impossible,” stated an affable man who many years ago lost the use of his legs. In 1987 the Fort Collins, Colorado resident fell off a roof while hanging Christmas lights and suffered life-changing spinal cord injuries. The retired mathematics teacher was the featured speaker at a Denver Rescue Mission event. Employees, guests and Mission residents soaked in an inspirational and faithful example to the power of the human spirit to overcome.  

“On a perfectly polished hospital tile floor with no friction, I could not push a wheelchair down a lousy ten-foot strip of tape.” The dog lover struggled almost a decade with the new reality. “The little blue guy (handicap sign) was an open wound.” Then one day a friend showed up with a hand-powered bicycle and stated firmly, “You’re getting on that sucker and riding it.”

Nothing has been the same since. “I lost hope falling off that roof and found it again through the hand-cycle.” Since that defining moment, the engaging motivational speaker slowly began the transformation. He cycled down the block, then around the neighborhood and beyond. Way beyond. Dixon has hand cycled across America many times in many directions. Today he hosts an annual event, Rich’s Ride, to raise money for a variety of causes. Triumph has come from tragedy. “Without my buddy’s insistence, I don’t know if this happens. Others loved me enough to not give up on me even when I had.”

We all have stuff like Alzheimer’s, injury, addiction or whatever. Let’s make sure this week we care for one another. Let’s encourage those we touch that they can traverse ten feet of lousy tape on the floor.  Whatever physical, mental, emotional or spiritual adversity lies before us? Well, we’re gonna push through it.

Ya never know, encouraging one another this way could change a person’s spirit and attitude about life in ways never imagined. It sure worked for Rich. Encouragement’s magic. Good for his buddies for caring so deeply. Let’s do the same this week!

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