About three or four months ago, I was having lunch at Marietta Pizza Company with a couple of very good friends of mine. We’ll call them K. M. and P. B. to protect their identities. While we were sitting there waiting on our Hawaiian pizza, P. B. asked me if I have any dreams, hopes or fears. This question didn’t really catch me off guard, but I was a little surprised someone I had just recently met wanted to know what I hold most dear, what I value, and what gives me chills and a funny feeling inside.
Now, I know most of us grew up wanting to be Superman, a fireman, cowboys and President of the United States; hoped it snowed so we didn’t have to go to school the next couple days; or feared spiders, snakes or that anonymous, invisible monster under the bed or in our bedroom closet. I also know I could have told P. B. and K. M. something along those lines, but that’s not what I’m all about.
I’ve grown up since I had those dreams, hopes and fears, and I hope I’ve become more mature. I’ve witnessed several monumental, historic occasions during my lifetime and have had some of my biggest dreams come true, which I’ll cover in detail later, so I just sat there for a minute or two and thought about my answer.
I remember when I finally spoke up, I said that one of my biggest dreams was to do a good job and make my family proud of me. I know this seems like a cliché to some people, but you have to understand something. All my life I’ve had to earn everything I have been given, from my high school diploma and college degree to my job with the city of Marietta. It’s not been easy, to say the least, to get to where I am today and sometimes I drive home or to work, or lay in bed, wondering if I really do make my family proud of me. I know I don’t have a fancy job like some of my aunts or uncles, or even have a Master’s degree, but I am very proud of what I have accomplished during my lifetime and would not take back one single thing that has gotten me to this point. Are there some things I did or things I said that I could have done or said differently? You’re damn right!! I wish I could take back a lot of things I’ve said to some people and even hit the rewind button and approach things from a different point of view. But that’s one of the biggest things I have learned and that has gotten me to where I am today. I am a much better man and employee than I was four years ago, and if I hadn’t done or said some things, who knows where I would be right now.
Anyway, back to my original point that I’ve always dreamed of making my family proud of me. I know my parents are proud of me, but I cannot tell you the last time my mom and dad came into my bedroom, sat down on the bed, gave me a big hug and actually TOLD me how proud they are of me. I know they have jobs and lives of their own, and they’re tired at the end of the day, but you have no idea how much it HURTS me not being able to hear those words. Sometimes I wonder if it’s all been a waste of time, and I’m just spinning my wheels (BIG pun intended).
Now before I jump the gun and get too far ahead, as I’ve been known to do from time to time, I must admit that several people have told me how proud they are of me, including my aunts, uncles and co-workers. This is the greatest feeling in the world, let me tell you, and it really puts things into the proper perspective. Nothing makes me happier than hearing somebody tell me, “Hey Jason, good job on (fill in the blank)!!” or “Jason, I am very proud of you for speaking in front of everybody Friday at the ceremony. Nobody even knew you were nervous or had that lump in your throat.” By the way, thanks for all the confidence boosters or kicks in the butt when I really needed them, T. M. (You KNOW who you are!!! ;))
Another one of my biggest dreams when I was in high school, but especially in college, was to find a decent-paying job with a company who looked past my wheelchair and hired me specifically based on my abilities and work ethic. This dream I can honestly say is one that came true because I have the BEST job in the world as the city of Marietta’s public information technician. Not only have I worked for them for more than four years, as previously mentioned, but I have the most amazing, wonderful co-workers who have really taken me under their wing and helped mold me into a good employee, but more importantly a better man and overall person.
I know there are some things I still need to work on (just ask my supervisor!!) but that’s what makes this a dream job. My supervisor and co-workers give me every opportunity to improve upon my mistakes, learn everything I can to be a better writer and cameraman, and I get to learn more about myself inside than I would ever get to learn if I was working as a mechanic, cashier at Wal-Mart or beat writer at a newspaper. My co-workers are some of my greatest friends and have taught me so much about life, how to treat people, how to speak up and get what I want, and how to count my blessings when things don’t seem to be going my way. This kind of support I could’ve never dreamed of, and I just want to thank the city of Marietta for giving me a chance and making my dream come true.
You could have taken one look at me, saw that I was in a wheelchair, and said, “Well, Jason’s in a wheelchair. He’s going to have to find another job because he’s not going to be ABLE to handle the work we have in store for him. He’ll never be the kind of employee we expect him to be. He’s just going to make his department and the entire city look like a three-ring circus.” But you didn’t say those things, and for that I will forever be grateful and appreciative. You looked past my physical disability and saw me for what’s inside, a man who has a big heart and a brain that functions normally. There is absolutely nothing wrong with my ability to think, and I am so honored that the city realized that. I could not be more PROUD or HONORED to work for the city of Marietta, and I just want you to know how much I appreciate the opportunity. I guess you realized one very important thing: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the FIGHT in the DAWG!!!”
While I’ve been working with Marietta’s public information office, I’ve been recognized on a few occasions for the work I do, promoting different events like the city’s annual career expo and being the best ambassador for the city. While the accolades and awards are nice, and it’s a wonderful feeling knowing my talents and abilities are paying off, one of the things I always tell co-workers and people in the community is that I do NOT do what I do for praise or awards. I genuinely love helping people and making others happy. One of the things I always try to tell people is that life is too short to be sad, disappointed or depressed. Every day I am out in the community or at the office, I always try to be in a good mood and have a smile on my face. I always try to compliment at least one person every day to make their day a little brighter. One of my goals and hopes is to make this world a better place than the day before. I know there are so many people out there struggling to make ends meet, trying to find a good job or just survive from paycheck to paycheck. I just hope my story and my outlook on life touches one person, whether it be that adorable three-year-old in the park, a single mom with her kids walking down the street, someone in a wheelchair or using a walker who’s looking for a little hope and an encouraging word or smile from a stranger, or a co-worker who may be having trouble at work or at home. I want people to understand that I know what you are going through, and I will always be here if you need to talk about anything. Please know you’re thought about, and I understand the struggles you face. I hope you’ll come to me with anything that’s bothering you. I may not be able to provide a good answer for all your problems, but I do pray I am able to help you see that silver lining or the greener grass on the other side of the fence. Bottom line, I hope what I am doing is making a difference in even one person’s life because if I am not doing that, my life would have been worthless, in my opinion.
One of the biggest decisions, and by far the best decision, I have ever made was accepting Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I remember the exact day I accepted Him into my heart. I was about 12 or 13 years old in Sunday school, and we had a guest speaker who delivered our message before we went to church. When he was done, we prayed and he asked if anyone wanted to accept Jesus into their heart, to look up and let him know.
I remember sitting there, scared to death to look up for fear of being embarrassed in front of the other kids in our Sunday school class. I could almost feel this pull on my heart, make that more of a knock on the door of my heart and could almost hear someone saying, “Jason, this is Jesus, open up and let me into your heart. You need me to come into your life. You’re going to be tempted by drugs, sex and a lot of peer pressure growing up, and I want to help guide you through these stormy waters on the path to a better life.”
After I sat there and prayed the prayer with our guest speaker, I remember I looked up at him and right then and there, accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. As I said this has been the best decision of my entire life, but I know I have made some mistakes and said some things that are not going to look good on my “eternal” records when I get to heaven. My biggest fear is that I have let God and my family down because of the decisions I’ve made, things I’ve said and done, or for that matter haven’t done, and for that I can never, and WILL NEVER, forgive myself. I know that God died on the cross and bore the brunt of my sins on Calvary, but that doesn’t make it any easier knowing I’ve sinned and let my Lord and Savior down. Father God, I ask You right now to wash away all of my sins and make me pure in Your image, that I may live to glorify and praise your Holy and Precious Name forever. Amen. As I close I am reminded of my two favorite verses from the Bible: “I can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 and “For we know that all good things work for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.