Friday, November 15, 2013

The Quiet Strength Among us: People who Face Trials with Courage and a Smile

"The Dregs of Winter" original drawing; prints available
They are all around us. You won’t read about them in the newspaper; unless, of course, they serve somebody else’s personal or political agenda. You won’t hear them complaining or whining for attention, either. They go about their business quietly without fanfare.

They are you and me. They are our neighbors, relatives and friends. They are heroes and role models. They are silent lambs who suffer courageously regardless of what life throws at them. Most do not deserve their fate, “for the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all.” (ECC 9:11 KJV)

Life on earth is a challenge. Our bodies may become diseased. We may suffer accident or illness. We may be maimed, disabled, or made infirm. If it’s any comfort, we are not singled out by life or by God, but as Ecclesiastes states: “time and chance happens to us all.” The crux of the matter is: What will be our response?

"A Joyful Heart" original pastel drawing
A video presentation on features a courageous man named Charlie Parker who was born without arms. His remarkable parents decided from the get-go that they would encourage Charlie and instill in him the belief that he could do whatever he set his mind to. Charlie’s father said: “We wanted his childhood to be as close to any other child’s as possible.”

As a result, Charlie learned how to ride a tricycle, a bicycle, and later a car. He graduated from high school, from college, and he did all of these things by learning to do things his way. Without arms, he used his feet to steer and his mouth and the space between his cheek and shoulder to manipulate the controls. His first automobile at age 16 was an Impala. He helped adjust the controls to meet his needs.

“Every step of the way in life there have been people who said that I can't do things,” said Charlie: “Said that I couldn't ride a bicycle; Said that I couldn't live on my own. Couldn't get a good job and support myself or I couldn't go to college and graduate. I don't listen too much to people when they tell me I can't do something.”

"With these Hands -- Hope" 16 x 20 mixed media on canvas
Today Charlie is an engineer at Hendrick Motorsports, a top tier NASCAR race car design firm. He designs and modifies racing cars for optimum performance. He uses his feet on the keyboard of a computer. He has worked at Hendrick for the past eight years. 

Charlie does not allow his disability to hold him back or stop him from living a full and productive life. No whiner here, he never has and never will allow self-pity or the jeers of others to deter him from doing what he wants to do. The family’s faith and their trust in and belief in God provided Charlie with a strong foundation that helped him weather the storms of life.

God is not some cosmic puppeteer, pulling our strings and causing bad things to happen to us either as punishment for our misdeeds, or because he doesn’t care or really isn’t there (the world’s thinking in a nutshell). 

Time and chance happens to us all. Life is unpredictable. If we ask him, God will comfort us, strengthen us, and help us as we go through this turbulent landscape (and sometimes even when we don’t ask). God neither manipulates nor alters the choices that we or other human beings make. How else could justice prevail and mercy reign? If we were only puppets in a great cosmic game, how could we be held accountable for the harm we cause to others? 

We cannot choose what happens to us in life. We can only choose what our response will be. Faith is letting go of doubts and fears by laying our burdens down at the feet of God. The Newscaster, Robin Robinson said it best: “When fear comes knocking, let faith open the door.”

"India Rising -- the Found" mixed media on canvas