I would say about 27 years ago I participated in a Tae Kwon Do demonstration at the Boston Globe headquarters on Morrissey Blvd. My dojo was a pretty hardcore place.
One of my teachers and senior Black Belts was an exceptional man, Mr. William Glover. Well on his way to being a world champion Bill was shot in a robbery attempt and blinded. After a recovery period he resumed his training and continued to excel in the martial arts and to this day teaches and inspires others. Mr. Glover had arranged the demonstration at the Globe focusing on martial arts for the physically challenged. Whether blind, or in a wheel chair, or less abled in some way, Mr. Glover would teach people how to best defend themselves. Believe it or not there are actually people who prey on the vulnerable and see a blind person as an easy target for a mugging. There were even people unperceptive enough to try and rob Mr. Glover, whose posture and strength walking with his cane should be enough to steer anyone clear of him. (Those vermin got what was coming to them and unfortunately for them, when blind, you can not afford to leave your assailant in a position to attack you again.) I learned a lot from Mr. Glover not just martial art techniques but he has been an ongoing lesson in resilience,focus, and moving forward for me.
At that demonstration was a young man in a wheelchair, Peter Wong. Those of you who have walked Newbury Street in Boston will recognize Peter as the man who sits at the corner of Newbury and Arlington, in his wheelchair, with a cooler of cold drinks, selling them to passersby.
Peter has “suffered” his whole life from Cerebral Palsy and while physically challenged his brain is working on all cylinders, including some that I do not think I have. Peter loves the martial arts and we ended up communicating and then catching a premier of a martial arts film at the Museum of Fine Arts together. Peter arrived via his van. An assistant who helps him with the tasks he cannot perform drove him. Peter does not let his personal logistical limitations stop him from fully engaging life.
Peter and I have stayed friends since that time and actually discovered we share the same birthday. Although his speech is at first hard to understand, like any “foreign ” language, I just need to spend some time listening, concentrating, and Voila! I confess to not always being as patient as I want to be and that is my loss. But what I am always aware of is Peter’s strength of character, his ability to move past his challenges, and his desire to live life fully.
Peter has recently been featured in a Commonwealth Care campaign.
I know he is loving it and some of his friends have threatened to “graffiti the van he his featured on. He would only see this as a compliment! I learn from Peter. Especially on those days when I have efficiently dug myself deep into the hole of self pity over one or more of life’s challenges, it is a man like Peter, who teachers me by the power of example, how to pick up the shovel of gratitude and dig myself out.
And what has happened over the years is that I think I am developing some form of grit. Maybe not Bill Glover grit. Maybe not Peter Wong grit. But perhaps just enough of my own grit to live gratefully and well and to be of service to my family and friends. G-D knows, I have been given incredible teachers. I hope I am learning something.