Today, we’re continuing our new Creative Giants blog series in anticipation of Life After Art. You know how I said that creativity comes in lots of forms? Well today’s guest is an excellent example. Ryan Haack’s blog, Living One-Handed is an amazing primer on the creativity it takes to live, you guessed it, with just one hand. (His blog is entirely typed with one hand too.) Ryan’s got a great story for us today.
McDonald’s was the scene of the crime.
My cousin and I were sitting in that merry-go-round thing. Joining us in the saucer were three very small boys. They were staring, but saying nothing. I could tell by the looks on their faces that they were wondering what happened to my left arm, when one of them finally squeaked out, “Um…what happened to your arm?” I looked at my cousin and we both smiled knowingly. “I’m sorry, what?” I asked the boy. He looked at his friends and mumbled again, “Your…arm…what happened to your arm?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re asking. What happened to my…” I said as I looked at my left arm and then… “MY ARM! WHERE’S MY ARM?! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” I screamed! We both jumped out and started running around, yelling, throwing woodchips. We climbed to the top of Officer Big Mac and banged on the bars, laughing like crazy.
Come on, a kid can only say, “I was just born that way” so many times before he snaps.
The truth is, I was born that way in 1977, missing my left arm below the elbow. You would think that’d bring a slew of limitations, but it didn’t…in my mind, at least. There was nothing I couldn’t do. Climb the rope in gym class? Sure. Participate in Jump Rope for Heart? Of course. Fly my Huffy off jumps? Done. Play piano? Gimme a break. The fact that I had one less hand than everyone else I knew never made a difference to me.
Now that I’m an adult, though, I can look back and appreciate the reality of the situation. The reality is that I had many limitations. I didn’t recognize them at the time, but they were there. I mean, seriously, how did I jump rope for hours on end? It was kind of like this, only I wasn’t at risk of actually having a heart-attack at the time.
None of us like to talk about limitations. They’re such a downer. We’d rather talk about reaching for the stars! And never giving up! And those things are good, but, limitations are real, too. We all have them. But, guess what? The fact is, sometimes our limitations actually afford us opportunities we’d never experience otherwise.
Different Like Me
Two years ago I was eating dinner at a restaurant when I saw a young boy with an arm just like mine. I smiled and nodded at him and continued eating. As I stood to leave, I saw someone running at me out of the corner of my eye. It was the boy’s mom. She just stood there, looking at me, then looking at him, then at me, then at him… He was wearing a Tigers cap, so I asked if he played baseball and then we talked about his favorite position and I told him I was a pitcher when I played. They both smiled.
We said our goodbyes and as I walked to my car, I thought to myself, “I just want to scoop them up in a big bear-hug and tell them everything is going to be fine! That mom has no idea how awesome her son is going to be!” That experience spawned a community that has changed my life, quite literally.
Different Is Awesome
Nearly a year later I launched Living One Handed, a place where I share my experiences and perspectives on living with one hand. I also figured I’d make some videos showing how I do certain things one-handed. I mean, I’ve probably been asked how I tie my shoes ten thousand times, so why not just throw it up on the YouTubes?
My goal is to get people to laugh and think and connect with others. I want people to know that being different is awesome. I want them to believe that they are wonderfully made. I want them to be inspired. I want moms and dads and grandparents to know that their limb-different kids can lead completely normal, yet amazing lives. And I think it’s working.
So, yeah, I have limitations. We all do. But sometimes, when we recognize those limitations, a whole new world of opportunity opens itself to us, too.
Your turn to talk. Tell us about any limitations that play a role in your life, and how you deal with them. Oh, and as a bonus for our Creative Giants series, my friend Ed Cyzewski is offering one lucky commenter a free download of his ebook, Creating Space. Yay!