Last weekend my friend Michele and I attended the Brooks Celebrate Independence Day. This annual event, hosted by Brooks Rehabilitation and free to the public, honors the spirit and accomplishments of people with disabilities. There are booths set up by different vendors and resource groups, informational and educational exhibitions, and a nationally renowned keynote speaker.
I’ve attended in the past, but this year I admit to being particularly star-struck. The speaker was Bethany Hamilton, the young surfer who lost her left arm in a shark attack in 2003 and recovered determined to return to competitive surfing. Her 2004 book, Soul Surfer, was made into a movie of the same name that played at the event. See local news coverage here.
Listening to her speak, one thing stood out. Her personality was downright effervescent. I remember thinking she must be the bubbliest, friendliest person on the planet. She appeared to be speaking from the heart, with no notes or preconceived plan. It was obvious she possessed the main ingredient necessary for dealing with any challenge, from catastrophic illness or injury to major life changes such as death or divorce — attitude.
I know it’s a little cliche’, but what’s that saying? Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it? It’s so true. We all have a friend that when asked how they are, the answer is inevitably ‘terrible.’ A Chicken Little for who the sky is eternally falling. An Eeyore-type person, all ‘woe is me.’ Don’t be that person. (I love Dr. Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture,” in which he explains the world is made up of Tiggers and Eeyores.) I think I’m a Tigger. Bethany Hamilton is definitely a Tigger.
Interestingly, when asked who inspires her (since she has inspired millions) she answered Nick Vujicic, the motivational speaker born without arms or legs. For those of you who have never seen the link on my website click here. You’ll never say ‘woe is me’ again.
All in all, it was a wonderful day. Full of the kind of reminders we all need to hear every once in awhile. To be grateful for what you have. To dream big. And to never give up. So start cultivating that positive attitude now. You never know what’s beyond the horizon. And should, as I hope, your life be nothing but sunshine, at least you’ll be more fun to be around. You might even feel like bouncing.