I’m always eager to showcase the life and talents of the incredible people that I meet in my travels. As an ambassador for College Park Industries, a prosthetic foot company based in Warren MI, part of my job is to attend educational, recreational and sporting events that are geared specifically towards the amputee or disabled community. After meeting and networking with thousands of people, I’ve discovered that the one common denominator that exists within all of us human beings is the basic will to survive. We just want to live. Sure some of us get beat down over time as we deal with the frustrations and hardship of life, but we all tend to find a way to deal with our situations, no matter how hard they are. Many people say to me “Reggie you’re such an inspiration. I could’t go through what you’ve gone through.” I invariably respond “sure you could. You just haven’t had the opportunity to prove that you could.” What I mean by that is some of us go through life having experienced very few dangers or accidents or injustices. We’ve never had a car accident, never been robbed or even broken a bone. Some have never experienced true pain or struggle. Others aren’t so lucky. Some have broken multiple bones, had multiple concussions, suffered burns, amputations, numerous surgeries, diseases, been bankrupt, divorced, assaulted, robbed, wrongly accused, you name it. Having experienced a few of the aforementioned (I’ve lived life), I’ve had the opportunity to prove to myself on numerous occasions that I was a survivor. That I was strong. I then channeled that confidence (strength) into other areas of my life where I was weak. Time and time again I’ve proven to myself that I am more than enough. That I have what it takes even if I don’t know exactly what I’m doing. Have you ever asked yourself “am I enough?” I bet you have. Let me tell you something, the will to survive (and be great) is written into our DNA. It’s inside of you & it’s inside of me. We were not put here to be failures. We were put here to do epic shit in life!
Another thing that helps to remind me that we as human beings are amazing is being able to work with and befriend others who have faced tremendous challenges in their lives and who are thriving. They’re not just existing in life, but truly living it! Meet my man “Swifty.”
Darren Swift is one of my “Britt Bros.” In 1991 as a soldier in the British Army, he lost both of his legs above the knees from an explosive device that was thrown into his camp by an IRA (Irish Republican Army) fighter. At the time of the explosion, Swifty and his partner were feeding their dogs. They were tracker dog handlers. Their job was basically to locate the enemy. When the bomb detonated, the explosion killed his partner instantly. Both of Swifty’s legs were blown apart. One severed completely and landed 20 meters away. He had blood coming from both ears and two fingers were missing. Even after the trauma of the blast, Swifty had the innate desire to live and started tending to his own injuries until a medic could arrive. The will to survive automatically kicked in and he longed to preserve his life. What would you do in a situation like that? Would you give up and die, or would you fight to live another day? Ask yourself.
After his rehabilitation, Swifty discovered snowboarding, and a new world opened up to him. As a member of BLESMA, a British military charity for limbless veterans, he was able to get out onto the snow and learn to ride as an amputee. He had to design a custom snowboard binding system that allowed him to control the board with his residual limbs and not his feet. Swifty is extremely confident with his “new normal” condition as he doesn’t wear prosthetic legs to walk. Instead, he opts to walk on his residual limbs. At roughly 4.5 feet tall, his exuberant personality and confident sense of self actually attracts people to him instead of away from him. Fellas, this is the kind of guy you want as a “wing man” in a bar! He accepts who he is and what’s happened to him, but still has the confidence to walk up to a beautiful woman and introduce himself. Word to the wise fellas, ladies LOVE confidence!
During the first week of December 2016, I’ll be back on the slopes in Breckenridge CO working with some amazing adaptive athletes as a coach for Disabled Sports USA’s (dsusa.org) The Hartford Ski Spectacular event. Disabled individuals from all around the world will come to learn to ski & snowboard from some of the most talented instructors around. It gives me a chance to get inspired by people like Swifty. People who have faced enormous challenges but who have gone on to live meaningful, passion filled lives. These people are not taking from society, they are actually contributing to it. The more I talk with these individuals the more I discover is that they are ordinary people, just like you and me. They were faced with adversity and they exercised their God given will to survive. And during that process, they discovered the they had a power inside of them that was beyond measure. The power to accept what has happened to them and move on with life. We should all be reminded of the incredible power of the human spirit. Be inspired!