For several years, my husband and I have spent the hour between 7 and 8 am on the phone. This is a time slot that is sacrosanct, so unless you are bleeding or the house is burning down, you’ll have to wait until after 8 to hear from me. This “our time” can be used to talk about anything from books we are reading to politics to bills to needs in our family, holding up each other’s arms, (as in the analogy of Moses having Aaron and Hur to help Israel prevail in battle by each taking one of his arms and holding it up,) and telling touching or inspirational stories.
This week Steve told me a story that made me go silent with awe, and me being silent takes some doing! He told me the tale of 14-year-old Isaac Lufkin, a boy who was born with no arms and who was raised with the mantra, “I can’t means I won’t.” It was that statement that struck me, and I have been meditating on it ever since.
Not only was Isaac born without arms, he was a complete surprise from the get go. He had a twin sister named Elizabeth who was born first, born without a heart, and for obvious reasons didn’t make it. Then, out popped Isaac. No one knew he had been there all along, and from the beginning Isaac was a fighter.
Isaac is being raised by a single mom named Lori, who has taught him to not give in to his disability, and to follow his dreams. His dream, by the way, is to be a place kicker for the Baltimore Ravens, and Isaac currently plays that position for his school.
He was invited by the NFL to attend the recent Super Bowl game, met former President Bill Clinton, and got a kiss on the cheek from actress Jennifer Garner. He was interviewed by several news agencies, and the kid, the story and the mantra have gone viral.
He says that the only time he has to use the “I can’t means I won’t” phrase to help him get through is when he doesn’t feel like doing his chores. He fiercely dislikes pity because he feels it makes him weaker, and if his backpack slips off, he doesn’t want anyone to pick it up for him. He’ll do it.
The kid can open a can of soda, get dressed completely on his own, and is even able to put on his own pants without assistance. He plays keyboards with his feet, as well as gets on Facebook a lot. He loves to play video games, and is just a regular kid.
In addition to playing for the NFL, he wants to encourage others to never give in to their disability, whatever it may be. I’ll tell you one thing, this kid certainly has drawn me up short. I have four limbs that work just fine, thank you very much, and it is humbling to have to admit that some of the areas in my life that just don’t budge is because my “I can’t” really, if I am honest, is “I won’t.” Busted.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner