When I was in New Zealand, visiting David (The_Castle) and Melanie, I met and rode with, a racer who effectively only had one arm. He was superbly talented and very high spirited...I wish I could remember his name. Dave?
As some of you may know, my son Chris is both an amputee and a professional racer. Prior to his injury, he was an AMA National Pro MX/SX racer. Since then, he has gone on to race Porsche GT3's in the Rolex Grand Am Series, Ultra 4 Pro cars in the King Of The Hammers events, and the Baja 1000 in Class 21 (Pro Bike 450 cc).
Among other things, he's won the X Games twice (Adaptive MX), the Extremity Games four times, and has won numerous individual events in both cars and on bikes. Two years ago, he led the overall for the first 32 miles of the Baja 1000. Eventually, he and his two teammates finished that race 1145 miles later sixth in class, 31st overall. All three were left-leg amputees.
Of all his accomplishments, however, I am most proud of the fact that he has made a real difference in many peoples' lives. Due mainly to the Internet, his story is well known, especially in racing circles and within the disabled community.
Because of this, he is sometimes contacted by family or friends of someone who has recently lost a limb. Whenever possible, he visits them in person. Otherwise, he will call them on the phone. His message is simply this:
"Look, you have lost an arm (or leg), but you haven't lost your life. What you do from now on is mostly on you. If I could do it, so can you. Get on with it. NO EXCUSES!!!".
For some reason, this seems to resonate with people, especially young people. I've had numerous family members or friends tell me how much
this has meant to both their loved ones and themselves. No pity party's, just determination.
Other, (non-disabled) people I've met have told me how just meeting Chris has changed their outlook on life. Perhaps they've been in a bad job, gone through a bad divorce, or they've just been in a general downward spiral. Something about meeting someone that fast and that positive seems to inspire them.
As Noel, Ade, and perhaps some others here can tell you, racers at that level are the most optimistic people you'll ever meet. They have to be. They also have real short memories for the same reason. They're not better than everyone else, just wired differently. And hearts of lions. Admirable qualities to be sure, unless you happen to be the father of one of them. Then you spend much of your life with your heart in your throat. And you dare not tell anyone, especially him.
The funny thing about this is that, if you were to ask him, he would tell you that it really wasn't that big of a deal. He didn't see where he had any
other options. He had been a racer all of his life, and he couldn't imagine doing anything else. Living an ordinary life was far scarier than the prospect of getting hurt again. And he has been hurt again, brutally hurt again. Short memory, heart of a lion. Still.
The irony is that, in many ways, his life actually got better after he lost his leg. It seems that being the fastest one-legged man on the planet was worth a lot more than simply being mid-pack against the best MX'ers in the world. Sponsorships and opportunities came much easier. I've often told Chris that if I'd known all of this would happen, I'd have cut something off of him much earlier!
Lastly, I'd want you to know that Chris (and people like him) get as much out of their experiences with others than those they're supposed to inspire. Because of his own story, Chris has had the opportunity to work with the Wounded Warriors, the USAF, school children, and many individuals. Each time, he has come home with stories of the remarkable people that he's met. He's a better person for it.These things are worth so much more than all of the shiny plastic trophies or oversize cardboard checks that he's ever won, or ever will.