“Courage is Knowing What Not to Fear” –Plato
We all start out so unabashedly unashamed. Whatever makes us unique and special, we regard without concern; we flaunt it without a care.
Then we depart from this. Someone. Somehow. Sometime. Something. And we find ourselves thrust into the world of judgment, or painfully watch as our children face something similar. Does it happen to us or do we allow it to happen? No matter. It was always present, but now we care. There, we struggle, sometimes for years, to improve ourselves so we are noticed, or perhaps improve ourselves so we aren’t noticed. If we are fortunate, we are able to return to that place of our early youth, where we no longer absorb the assessment of others.
As we turn to 2013, I once again choose to highlight those auspicious people that have demonstrated this past year to their family, friends, neighbors and some even to the public at large, that they have learned not to hide, but rather flaunt whatever may cause others to judge them (or their children):
- Oscar Pistorius: “The Master of not only the possible but the seemingly impossible.” Oscar is the only person to make my list two years in a row. In 2012, Pistorius successfully competed in both the Summer Olympic Games, reaching the Men’s 400-meter semi-finals, as well as medaling at the Paralympic Games this past year. In addition to his great athletic ability, Oscar was voted one of People Magazine’s “Sexiest Men Alive.” Pistorius lost his legs at eleven months old, and ultimately learned a different way of mastering balance through competition.
- Nate Muehe: “If you put your mind to it, you can do what you think you can’t do.” One of Nate’s arms was stunted at birth. Some youth baseball coaches refused to let eleven-year-old Nate Muehe, play on their team, despite the fact he could reach 60 mph on the radar gun. But one team in Kansas, where Nate is from was willing to take a chance him. Now a 7th grader, Nate has proved himself to anyone that doubted his ability to play baseball. Nate continues to excel as a pitcher in in Johnson County, where he lives with his family. He’s also a fantastic center fielder and first baseman. Nate’s great attitude, in addition to his awesome baseball talent, is the reason Nate made this year’s list.
- Aimee Copeland “Instead of saying I am disabled, I say I have a different set of abilities” (While being interviewed by Katie Couric in Sept. 2012). When Couric asked if at any point she wanted to give up, Copeland firmly said no. “I love life. It’s a beautiful thing.” Copeland, a 24-year-old graduate student went zip-lining with friends. Unexpectedly, the homemade line snapped, and she sustained a deep cut. Days later, Copeland was diagnosed with a rare, dangerous flesh-eating bacteria, which ultimately claimed parts of all four of her limbs.
- Tony Memmel: “It may sound strange, but I have found everyday challenges ….to be the true challenges that occupy my mind most days. It is very seldom that I think to myself, ‘Now how in the world am I going to do this with just one arm?’ Fortunately, I can count those instances on one hand.” Memmel is a singer and songwriter who was born missing his left forearm. Never one to be held back, Tony taught himself how to play guitar, and given his tremendous musical talents, Memmel tours around the country, won numerous awards and has just released his latest album, “Clenched Hands, Brave Demands.”
- Zach Hamm: “It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, it matters how you look on the inside. This isn’t a life threatening disease. It doesn’t stop me, and it shouldn’t stop you.” Zach, a 12-year-old boy from Texas, was diagnosed with Ectodermal Dysplasias (ED). A rare genetic disorder, ED can have multiple effects such as hair, teeth, nails and glands developing abnormally. Zach has skeletal abnormalities which include only having one toe on his right foot and two toes on his left. Also, his sweat glands are not fully functional and he is unable to control his body temperature, particularly in the heat. With the unconditional support and love from his parents, Zach started the ‘Zach Hamm Don’t Sweat It Golf Tournament,’ an annual benefit to help raise money for the National Foundation for ED, was profiled in a 2012 book by sportscaster Bill Brown (www.mybaseballjourney.com), and Zach’s father, Paul wrote a fantastic Guest Flaunt for me earlier this year, in honor of Zach.
- Vidya Anandam: “At first it seemed to be hard. Soon, it became a pleasant experience as my heart became as light as a feather. Interestingly as I began to face the society with bolder and stronger attitude, it became more and more friendly and more understanding. As I learned to say ‘I haven’t got a child’ with less pain, sympathy turned into respect as though by magic. Had I got children normally and immediately after marriage, I would not have realized what a precious gift G-d has given me (i.e.) my husband. I would not have enjoyed the depth of his character- his generosity, broad mindedness and unconditional love for me. I suppose the history of mankind itself is full of differences and challenges and can be described as a never-ending journey towards perfection.” Anandam, a woman living in India, wrote a passionate and captivating Guest Flaunt for me this year. In it she heroically faced her inability to have children biologically, despite it being viewed as a ‘sin’ among many people in her society.
- Joanna Rowsell: “If I can make a difference to young girls with the same issue then that’s a responsibility. If they can look at me and think it’s not the end of the world and they can still do what they want to do, that’s pretty amazing!” After claiming Olympic victory in the women’s cycling track event in London this past August, Rowsell removed her helmet to reveal she is almost totally bald—the result of alopecia she has suffered for 13 years. Despite the inevitable shock and judgment, Rowsell chose to ascend the Olympic podium to collect her medal without her wig.
- Zachary Kimotho: “The kind of response we are getting is quite encouraging. It’s what is re-energizing me. To know that people are listening, people are receptive. They can see the need.” Zackary has been in a wheelchair ever since he was shot in a car-jacking eight years ago. This past year, Kimotho was on a heroic plight to raise money to build a Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Unit in Nairobi. Having recently returned home, Kimotho successfully raised $900,000. Upon completion of the center, local spinal cord patients will be provided with affordable, easily accessible care that is currently unavailable.
- Molly Ryan Stapelman: “I believe everybody is different. Some people’s differences are on the outside and easier to see than the differences others have on the inside. But everybody has got something and G-d doesn’t give challenges to those who can’t handle them. And whatever your challenge, it is a blessing worth celebrating.” Inspired by her beautiful daughter Ryan being born with symbrachydactyly (resulting in shortened fingers on one of Ryan’s hands), founder of “Lucky Fin Project,” with already thousands of supporters around the globe, Molly’s mission is to educate as well as create a support network for parents whose children with limb difference. http://luckyfinproject.org/
- Lauren Scruggs : “I think the hardest thing is losing my hand, because it changes your life and you have to learn things in new ways, but its also a good and positive thing because you appreciate life a lot more. I feel that the joy in my life has intensified, and my compassion for people has strengthened. And my dream for you…..is that you’ll catch a glimpse of what I love so much about fashion: Its boldness and creativity, the confidence that it takes to stand before a camera and let your image get captured, even though you aren’t perfect; the peace to be truly okay with how others see you.” Scruggs, recently interviewed on Today (NBC) and quoted in the HuffPost, is a Dallas area model and editor who lost her left hand and fractured her skull (losing sight in one eye) after she walked into the propeller of a small airplane approximately one year ago.
Today, as we close the chapter on 2012, I celebrate these phenomenal people, and look forward to seeing who else may turn up on the Don’t Hide It Flaunt It list for 2013.
Happy New Year from my family to yours!
This post is dedicated to Kim Tebussek Gollings, who is a dear friend from my youth. Kim not only was the 500th “like” on my Don’t Hide It Flaunt It FB page (which earned her this dedication!), but recently reminded me that our lives are all filled with struggles–blatant difference or not. Here is what Kim wrote:
“Meg: In honor of me, dedicate your post to someone else. Or dedicate to old friendships. Or to those who had no idea of your struggles because we never thought of you being different. Not to take away from the physical difference, it was just not an issue. You were just you. We were just all trying to navigate those crazy years of trying to figure ourselves out. I was too lost in disliking my own life to realize anyone else might have struggles as well.” Kim- Thanks for offering, but I still dedicate this one to you. Lots of love.