He was seven when his right leg was amputated at the upper thigh after complications from an infection. The prosthetic he learned to use in Africa was different than the one he received after arriving in the States. He used both equally well, walking, running, and dancing with only a limp. When he wears pants, you would never know he’s walking on a manufactured limb. If he’s not wearing the leg, he hops from place to place, upstairs, into the pool, and anywhere else around the house he needs to go.
If you think about determination, think about this young man (whose foster mom has, understandably, asked me not to use his name on the World Wide Web). Not long after he arrived in the U.S. he saw a child about his age riding a bicycle with training wheels. He wanted to try. But for functionality, the prosthetic he wears has a very stiff joint. He has to manually make that knee bend. That means he has to pedal a bicycle with only one leg. Not to be deterred, he had somebody strap his foot onto the pedal with a bungee cord and off he went.
When he and his family came to visit me, we all went to a miniature golf park. The place had bumper boats, rides, golf, video games, and go-carts. This little guy wanted to drive a go-cart, but he was too young and short to drive the big ones. He would have to settle for the go-carts in the kiddie area. That was fine with him. He got into the car, forced his knee to bend, strapped on the seat belt, and waited for the motor to start. That’s when he encountered a problem.
The gas pedal is on the right side of a go-cart, the side of his prosthetic. He doesn’t have a right ankle to flex and press the gas. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. He pushed the knee joint on his prosthetic with his right hand as hard as he could and steered with his left hand on the wheel. You could tell when he was getting tired, because the car would slow down. It didn’t matter. He wanted to ride it again and again.
Determination is finding a way to do what you want to do, no matter the obstacles in front of you. So this little guy climbs trees, goes rock climbing, has his own bicycle now, takes swimming lessons, roller skates, and wants to learn to snow ski and water ski. The word “can’t” isn’t really in his vocabulary. He wants to try everything. Nobody tells him what he should or shouldn’t be able to do. He just does it, and he does it with a great big toothless smile that makes you think you could do it, too.
Determination is relentless. It’s an exercise in trial and error. It means asking questions until you get the right answer. It’s a matter of the will. This kid could conquer the world one day, because he’s already overcome more obstacles than most of us will face in a lifetime.