Heart of a Lion

This maybe one of the most personal posts I’ve ever written but this week, someone said something to me and I felt so ashamed and unworthy of her comments that I almost wanted to cry, but they were the most sincere heartfelt comments I’ve heard anyone tell me in a while…

Wednesday, I went to a Toys for Tots benefit being held at a local restaurant. There weren’t a lot of people there, but from the minute I walked in, I could feel the Christmas spirit and the love that filled the place… Coincidentally, the restaurant’s name is The Place, but that’s another story…

I’d been there a few minutes and at first I felt completely out of place, sitting off by myself by the dance floor like I always do, looking for the right opportunity to take a few pictures… A couple US Marines were there helping with the benefit and they posed for a couple pictures, when a waitress friend of mine walked over and wanted to have her picture taken with me. Well, next thing I knew, I was the man of the hour, for the next couple hours….

Anyway, while I was handing the camera to somebody to take our picture, I noticed a woman standing off to the side and I motioned for her to jump in the picture with us… My waitress friend and the other woman knelt down, and I noticed the woman I asked to join us had put her hand over my heart… I didn’t think much of it at the time until we started talking.

After we took the picture, the waitress went to check on a few other customers and the my new friend and I started talking… She said she could feel my spirit and that she knew I was going to soar with eagles one day and that I had the heart of a lion. She said she could feel it while we were taking the picture. Now understand, I’d barely known the woman five minutes, and to have her say I had the heart of a lion? Come on… I’m just an ordinary guy, trying my best to fit into society.

IMG_7738She said that my heartbeat was so strong and that I had touched her heart that night. I told her thanks, but that I wasn’t anything special… I told her I just do the best I can with what life gives me and try to make a difference in the world. She said I could do anything I set my mind to and while we were talking, she kind of brushed my face and touched my forehead and my heart and mentioned that I have a good mind and a good heart and to never give up.

Later that night, when I got ready to leave I told her goodbye and asked if she wanted to dance with me before I left. She asked me how, and I kind of pulled her in close and showed her that even a guy in a wheelchair knows how to slow dance… Well, she and I kind of stole the spotlight for a few minutes, and except for the time I spend with my best friend Rebecca, they were the most precious moments I’ve had in a while.

While we were dancing, we talked again about how I had the heart of a lion and would soar with eagles, but all I could think about was how unworthy I am of being someone with the heart of a lion. Lions to me are some of the most dangerous predators in the world and I’m just a lost lamb looking for my place in the world. To even be considered as someone with that kind of influence is totally inspiring to me… The woman said I had really touched her heart and again she placed her hand over mine to feel my heartbeat and said it was beating strong and loud (I was probably nervous getting all the attention. I’d glanced around and every eye in the place was looking at us…). When I turned my eyes back to meet her’s she kind of grabbed my hands and placed them over her heart to let me feel how I’d touched her that night. Right then, I almost started crying because except for a couple people, I’ve never been told what a difference I had made in someone’s life.

IMG_4622To be honest, for a while now, I’ve been wondering where I fit into society and whether I mattered to someone. My best friend Rebecca has told me on several occasions how much I’ve impacted her and has even let me share some of my personal story with her about my disability… But I can honestly say that after those precious moments the other night, there is not a doubt in my mind that I belong in the world… It would just be nice to hear it from someone other than friends, coworkers or someone I just met.

This Christmas, if you have a spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, child or grandparent who has a disability or is suffering from a disease or has cancer, I hope that you would let them know how much they mean to your life and let them know how they’ve made a difference in your life. Those few words of encouragement would mean so much to them and let them know that they do matter to someone. You have no idea how much you will change their perspective on life and perhaps save them from making a life or death decision that neither of you can ever take back.


Souls Are Perfect

Souls Are Perfect

By Michelle Martin Dobbins 

In the Hamrick family, we’ve been blessed in many ways. We are a quite unique collection of people, and we have always been closer than most extended families. We have disagreements, and we have hurt each other unintentionally, but we always forgive. We hold family as important, and we get together often, even though we are scattered around the country and sometimes the planet. Homer and Roena Hamrick, my grandparents, knitted us tightly together.

My cousin, Brian, drew us in, too. Brian had cerebral palsy, and he spent his life in a wheelchair. He was a bright and shining light in our family, and we all loved him beyond measure. He loved music and was almost always smiling. When I was little, though, I was afraid of him. I was afraid of his chair and the sounds that he made, and I couldn’t understand him. I thought he was different from me.

BrianOne rainy afternoon with Brian changed how I saw him and the world forever. We were watching a parade, but as often happened in our town, the weather did not cooperate with the local festival. My aunt parked a camper along the parade route and the children watched the parade perched in the loft of the camper, peering out of the window. At one point in time, it was just me and Brian. He looked at me and clearly said, “Why are you afraid of me? I’m just like you, except that my body is different. It just doesn’t work the same way as yours.” Normally, I had difficulty understanding Brian’s words, but that day they rang our perfectly clear to me. He spoke to me from his heart. Although I was sometimes still shy around him, I learned something from him that day I will never forget.

I learned that all souls are perfect. Bodies can be disabled, minds can be damaged, and spirits can be crushed, but souls are created by God perfect and remain ever perfect. This knowledge welled up in me and overflowed as a desire to work with special-needs children. I went to college and spend eight years teaching special-needs children, until I left to have my own children. I loved my job, and I adored those kids. They lit me up. I saw my students differently than most people did. I connected with them on a soul level, and I could feel who they were. I didn’t see their disabilities. We can all do that with anyone if we try. I don’t know why we all come in to this life with different challenges, but I have experienced that many people who have physical or mental disabilities have stronger spirits. We all have challenges to bear, and people without apparent disabilities are no exception. We all have gifts to share, and people with disabilities are no exception. We are all more alike than different, so reach out and connect with everyone you can.

Brian died, unexpectedly, a few weeks after his fortieth birthday. Our family was sad to lose the person he was, but his perfect soul still exists and this gives us comfort. I am thankful for the love he shared with our family and how his spirit made us all closer to each other.

Michelle 2012About Michelle Dobbins

Michelle Dobbins is a pre-published author, who shares tips for positive living and true stories of magic, creation and love in everyday life on her blog. You can connect with her and get her Magic Question of the Day on Facebook and Twitter.
Michelle, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting my readers know that, yes, souls are perfectly and wholly made by God, and that we are indeed perfect in His eyes. We do all have something special to give, and I want to sincerely thank you for opening my eyes and showing me that everyone has their own struggles and difficulties. Sometimes I’m guilty of “assuming” that nothing is wrong with someone else, because I cannot physically see a disability. Thank you for your amazing gift that you’ve given me, the ability to see through to the soul of someone who’s truly a role model for others and has inspired not only me, but the countless students you’ve taught. God bless you.

Everyday Hero, Doing My Best

One of the things I get asked most often, especially if I am out taking pictures and writing an article for work about the local Veteran’s Day or Fourth of July parades on the Square is if I am a veteran. Most of the people who ask me are veterans themselves, currently on active duty overseas or having served in Korea, World War II or Vietnam. Now I can totally understand why they would ask… I’m in a wheelchair and could have suffered an injury fighting on the front lines in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Jason BourneI really hate to “burst their bubble” and tell them that I’m not a veteran (in the most-common sense of the word), but after talking with several veterans the past five or six years, I’ve come to understand that, in truth, I really am a veteran of a much bigger war. The war of everyday life. Let me explain because I know you have that “deer in the headlight” look right about now, thinking “What is this guy talking about?”

As most of you who’ve followed my journey may know, and for those who just joined the journey, I was born with spina bifida and have been in a wheelchair for more than 25 years. Every day when I get out of bed, I’m fighting some kind of battle, whether it be an aching back, not getting enough sleep, a stomach ache that never stops or seemingly trying to play catch up with the ever-changing pace of society and their attitudes toward people with special needs. No matter how much I get done at work, it seems like I’m always running on empty when I get home and just want to crawl in bed and go to sleep for eight solid hours. But I think I do have one thing in common with the U.S. military, and that is my work ethic and my determination to never give up and keep fighting because I know I’d be letting a lot of people down, epsecially my friends, family and co-workers.

I really hate to put my name in the same sentence with the U.S. military because nobody can compare to the bravery and courage of our men and women in uniform, but some days I feel like a soldier in the infantry on the front lines near Baghdad. I may just be “infantry” but I know the man right beside me, or the person in the next cubicle, is depending on me to get the job done and do it right. Sure I may make mistakes, but that’s one of the best things about being a team, whether in the desert of Iraq or at the office working the daily grind of a nine-to-five shift. A team sticks together and helps each other be the best they can possibly be, and God knows I would not be where I am today without the encouragement and support of my co-workers and friends. I’d probably be sitting at home, looking through the want ads for another job or out picking up trash on the side of the road, and definitely would not be living my dream and having the best job in the world.

In my line of work, I meet a lot of co-workers, in different departments, and have developed what I think are great relationships and friendships with most of them. Like I’ve said previously I’m out on the streets a lot, or in other departments, talking to people about what’s going on in the city where I work, and apparently from the e-mails and feedback I receive from co-workers, I must be doing something right. Here are several e-mails from friends and co-workers I’ve received the past couple years.

IMG_2477Heroes come from all walks of life and are heroes because someone thinks they are. We all think you are.

I know you’re a fighter.

Keep smiling. Don’t let the energy vampires sap your strength!!! They are everywhere, and positive people are their enemy. Fight on! 🙂

All your efforts are greatly appreciated, Jason.

A couple months ago, I went to an event celebrating Gone With the Wind, and met an author whose aunt worked as technical adviser on the movie back in 1939. She said I am a real hero. I don’t mind sitting here today and saying that I felt almost ashamed when she called me a hero. I haven’t done anything special. I am just living life and trying to beat spina bifida any way I know how. You have no idea how unworthy I am of being called a hero. Every day, police officers, firefighters, paramedics and the military put their lives on the line to keep our cities, counties and nation safe.

I’m sure everybody remembers the tragic events the past few months in Oklahoma, Texas and Boston. The men and women who saved countless lives after these tragic events are the REAL heroes and deserve so much more respect than I do. I’m just a man, doing the best I can with what God gave me. Sometimes it feels like I can do so much more, and sometimes I just want to go up to a soldier or a police officer and thank them for everything they do to protect the freedom I love so much. Next time you see a soldier, police officer, firefighter or paramedic, take a few minutes and thank them for everything they do every day. Most of them hardly see their families, and I cannot imagine how hard it must be for a family to sit and worry whether their loved one is coming home.

I remember a couple days after I talked to my author friend at the GWTW event, I e-mailed a co-worker for something and told her what the author called me. A few minutes later, my co-worker wrote back and said, “You are a hero and I applaud her for recognizing that!! With all the challenges you face each day, you still get up each morning, come to work, do an outstanding job and all with a cheerful, helpful, positive attitude. Do you have any idea how many people NEVER do that? You are a hero to me, too!”

I felt so humbled and honored that people do actually see me as a hero, but please understand something… I don’t do what I do for recognition or praise or awards. I don’t go out every day, beating my chest saying, “Hmm, I wonder who’s hero I can be today?” And I sure as hell wouldn’t put myself in the same category as the U.S. military or law enforcement. My accomplishments pale in comparison to what these people do for each and every one of us every day. I will say it again. I just take it one day, one step at a time and try to do the best I can despite the obstacles that are thrown in my way. I genuinely love helping people and if I can offer a hug, a word of encouragement, a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, or an ear to listen, then that’s what I’m going to do.

IMG_4622One thing I’ve learned the past few years is that a little pat on the back, a word of thanks, a hug or someone saying I’m proud of you can make all the difference in someone’s life, especially if that person has special needs. You have no idea how good it makes me feel to get an e-mail from a co-worker, a text from a friend or a thank you from someone I come across in the community. If you have a family member or a friend with special needs, please, please take the time to tell them how much they mean to your life, even if it’s just “Hey, thank you for coming to eat with us today. We’re really glad to see you.” Or “Hey, great job on that project at work. I know how hard you worked on it, and you’ve really done a great job. Keep it up!!” You’ll never know how big these seemingly small words can be to a person struggling to face their challenges every day.

As I close, I want to dedicate this post to anyone who has a disability or knows someone whose life has been impacted by a disability or cancer. You can do anything you set your mind to. Sure we may look a little different, or talk a little bit different, but one thing I can guarantee. We’re doing alright for the shape we’re in!!!

Do yourself a favor and connect with me on Twitter or send me an e-mail letting me know what you thought about this post. I’d love to hear from you 😉

This Blog is Under Review

After further review, I’ve decided to keep blogging, sharing my story and hopefully inspire others to life their lives to the fullest with no regrets. I truly hope this blog inspires you like it has inspired Jenn Brink, a wonderful friend I met on Twitter a couple weeks ago. She was gracious enough to review the blog and give her feedback about different pages and aspects of what I’m doing right, wrong or changes I need to make. Thanks for the constructive criticism Jenn. I really am glad you love the blog and weren’t afraid to tell me what I need to change 🙂
Jason’s blog is great! He posts about his struggles with Spina Bifida in an uplifting and positive way. He also interviews indie authors living their lives in this crazy world we share. I love that it is about him, Spina Bifida and others that he has met on his journey. Jason is a positive and real inspiration for us all. Check it out! 
I loved your blog, and I’m not a big blog reader. The reason, I get bored because it’s like reading only books by one author, no other POV, no other subject, me, me, me…. That’s what I love about your blog. It’s different and ultimately more interesting to people like me. 
IMG_2500 2 (2)On a different note: Take or leave as constructive criticism.
Use the pic on your blog to represent you. The one on the porch. It’s great! The outdoors is such a relaxing background and not too busy. It also creates endorphins making people associate your image with relaxing and being happy. 
Your heading: “A look at my life with spina bifida and daily musings I have”
1.  Capitalize Spina Bifida. It is a recognized name, like Jason. 
2.  The sentence is grammatically incorrect and does not make sense or a good statement for someone writing a blog. Rewrite it with a better catchphrase, a “hook.”  Something more active and exciting that embraces all that you do with your blog or your goal. 
3.  Too many author interviews one after another, with the same questions is monotonous. Cushion every interview with something you wrote about whatever. It could be your own review of an author or a book if you want to promote indie authors or one of your musings. Also, interview some male writers and use different questions. Mix it up.   
Check out Jenn’s blog, buy her books on Goodreads, find out what she’s interested in on Pinterest, become a friend or a fan on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and connect with her on Google Plus.
As long as you’re still here, grab a Coke and check out what other people are saying about the blog.

Why Me, Lord?

“The closer you are to God, the more likely He is to listen.” The past couple days I’ve been reflecting on this statement by Reverend Robert Alden from Little House on the Prairie. Yesterday I went to have lunch with a very special friend of mine, who works at a restaurant a couple miles from where I work, and this statement was on my heart so I drove to the top of Kennesaw Mountain, about 20 minutes north of Atlanta. When I got to the top and got out of my van, I couldn’t believe the view. I’m usually scared of heights but yesterday I felt this calming presence come over me, almost surrounding me with a safety net, letting me know I was safe on the mountain top and wouldn’t fall.

IMG_3171If you’ve followed my journey, you know the past several years dating back to 2005 have been really tough for me personally and emotionally with my grandmother’s passing in March 2005 and my grandfather’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s shortly thereafter. I’ve really struggled with myself knowing there is so much more I could do to help my grandfather forget about his Alzheimer’s and try to remember the great times he has had with his family, and the fact I could have spent more time with my grandmother when she was alive, or called her on the phone to talk for a couple hours every week. Some of these memories I will never get back, and this breaks my heart knowing I will never see my grandmother again or get to go fishing with my grandfather or get to see him drive his tractor, plowing his garden in the spring.

As I was up on Kennesaw Mountain yesterday, and all day today, I’ve really been thinking about what else I could do differently to cherish the time with my family and friends, and more than once I’ve asked, “Why me, Lord?” Why has He placed all of these situations in my life, knowing I am not prepared to handle them? Why has He allowed my grandfather to slowly die in front of me when I can’t help him? Why did He take my grandma away from me before I could give her another hug and tell her how much I loved her and how much she has helped me become the man I am today? Why did He let me be born with spina bifida, unable to walk or feel my legs and confined to a wheelchair all my life? Why did He bless me with a wonderful job with the city of Marietta’s communications office, when I knew nothing about writing articles for a website, how to take pictures and upload them to Flickr or when He knew I am really nervous and stutter a lot when I meet someone new or am out in public, talking to strangers about what my office does?

IMG_4607As I am sitting here writing this, and over the past couple years, God has answered all of these questions and so much more. I know God would never give me more than I can handle and that He will be here with me, guiding me in every decision and problem I face. He has been with me in the operating room every time I have had surgery and has healed me completely from my operations. I remember several years ago I was asked to give my testimony at a local church, and when the preacher asked me if I would share my heart with the congregation, I was scared to death. But God calmed my worst fears and I heard Him say, “Jason, you need to share your testimony. You will inspire so many people just by getting up and sharing your heart. Who cares if you stutter or forget to mention something? The congregation doesn’t care if you’re nervous or scared. They love the man you are today and they see a man who’s overcome so much in his life. I love you, Jason, and I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

I think the same can be said about why I was given the chance to share my talents and abilities at the city of Marietta. I’ve met so many people in the community and at work who come up to me, wanting to know about my story. They always pat me on the back or give me a hug and tell me what an inspiration I am to them. While it’s true that I am there to work for the city, I think I am serving a higher calling by being in the position I am. I firmly believe there is someone out there, God only knows where, who may be having a rough day or need a word of encouragement or a comforting word of advice, and God has placed me on a course to one day meet them, take them aside for a few minutes to talk and hear their story and share what He has done in my life. Maybe they just need to know they aren’t alone, that there is someone who understands what they are going through and will be there for them when they need a helping hand. Maybe I am the person who God has chosen to minister to a lost soul or a single parent with a special-needs child and let them know that God loves them and will always be there to comfort their worst fears.

God has also given me several key verses in the Bible that I carry with me every day of my life. One of these is James 1:2-3, “My brethren, consider it all joy when you face various trials and tribulations, knowing that the trying of your faith brings patience.” This verse means so much to me that I couldn’t possibly share it in this post. I will just say that I am a better man because of the situations God has placed in front of me, particularly my grandma’s death, my grandfather’s Alzheimer’s and my disability. Every day I wake up amazed by how much I have grown as a man, personally and professionally, thanks to the challenges I’ve been given. I would have given up long ago but my faith is as strong as ever, and I don’t think it would be this strong if I hadn’t forged ahead and worked my butt off to get through the tough times. A weaker man would have surrendered, but God has been right beside me, holding my hand and has led me to bigger and better things I never would have had the opportunity to receive had I surrendered. I’ve also become much more patient and have learned different ways of doing things because of my disability. Now some of the ways I get things done have taken some time to think through to come up with the best possible solution, but I’ve stuck with it and have overcome so many limitations it’s unbelievable. I just hope one person sees how much I have overcome and understands that they can do anything they set their mind to if they just believe in Christ to carry them.

IMG_4622This reminds me of the verse I’ve built my life on, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Growing up, I used to depend on my parents to do practically everything for me, including help me get a shower, get dressed, make me something to eat or drink or drive me to school or a doctor’s appointment. Now I am very independent and am doing things I never would have dreamed of. I’ve been honored as the best ambassador for the city of Marietta and have helped update a large three-panel display at work. I am in charge of creating Marietta’s weekly e-newsletter and am out two or three times a week in the community taking pictures and writing articles for our website. I’ve attended several three-day weekends hosted by Marietta’s Gone With the Wind Museum and have met some of the actors who played in the movie including the beautiful and amazing Ann Rutherford, who played Scarlett O’Hara’s sister, Careen. I’ve had the honor of meeting legendary Georgia Bulldog’s head coach Vince Dooley, the “Voice of the Dawgs” Larry Munson and current Top Dawg Mark Richt.

Recently I applied for a promotion with the city of Marietta, and one verse that gives me a glimmer of hope is Romans 8:28, “Now we know that all things work together for good for those who love God.” This verse is so powerful and so very true. I never would have dreamed I would be working with the city of Marietta after five and a half, almost six years. I never would have imagined I would have the amazing self-confidence I do from working with the city. Now, I hardly think twice about going out in public and talking to someone over the phone. It’s almost like breathing that it’s become second nature. I’ve made so many wonderful friends and have formed so many strong relationships with my co-workers and people I’ve met in the community that I feel like the richest man in the world. It’s pretty remarkable to think that the once scared to death, nervous, stuttering kid in a wheelchair who was afraid to see his own shadow is now a very successful man with the best job in the world and has surprised himself by how far he has come.

Now instead of asking “Why me, Lord?” I just say a prayer of thanksgiving, smile and thank God for everything He has given me. Thanks God!!

Unconditional Love

I may have posted this story on the blog before, but it has such a powerful message I wanted to share it again. I also wanted to thank all of my co-workers, friends and family for supporting me and loving me unconditionally, despite everything we’ve been through. I’m a better man because of the love and strength you’ve instilled in me, and I just pray I can make you all proud of me.

IMG_1986A story is told about a soldier who was finally coming home after having fought in Vietnam. He called his parents from San Francisco. “Mom and Dad, I’m coming home, but I’ve a favor to ask. I have a friend I’d like to bring home with me.”

“Sure,” they replied, “we’d love to meet him.”

“There’s something you should know,” the son continued. “He was hurt pretty badly in the fighting. He stepped on a land mine and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go, and I want him to come live with us.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, son. Maybe we can help him find somewhere to live.”

“No, Mom and Dad, I want him to live with us.”

“Son,” said the father, “you don’t know what you’re asking. Someone with such a handicap would be a terrible burden on us. We have our own lives to live, and we can’t let something like this interfere with our lives. I think you should just come home and forget about this guy. He’ll find a way to live on his own.”

At that point, the son hung up the phone. The parents heard nothing more from him. A few days later, however, they received a call from the San Francisco police. Their son had died after falling from a building, they were told. The police believed it was suicide. The grief-stricken parents flew to San Francisco and were taken to the city morgue to identify the body of their son. They recognized him, but to their horror they also discovered something they didn’t know, their son had only one arm and one leg.

Woman-Missing-SoldierThe parents in this story are like many of us. We find it easy to love those who are good-looking or fun to have around, but we don’t like people who inconvenience us or make us feel uncomfortable. We would rather stay away from people who aren’t as healthy, beautiful, or smart as we are. Thankfully, there’s someone who won’t treat us that way. Someone who loves us with an unconditional love that welcomes us into the forever family, regardless of how messed up we are.

Tonight, before you tuck yourself in for the night, say a little prayer that God will give you the strength you need to accept people as they are, and to help us all be more understanding of those who are different from us!!

— Author Unknown

Put Yourself in My Wheels

Sorry if this offends some people but I witnessed something this morning that really ticked me off and almost caused me to make a scene at work. I’d just gotten to work and was getting ready to pull in the handicapped parking spot I usually get, but somebody was parked in it.

Now, usually when something like this happens, I’ll check for a handicapped permit or license plate so I can write their tag number down and give it to a police officer, but this morning was different…. This woman (and I use that term VERY lightly) was SITTING in her minivan WAITING on somebody to come back out!!! Really? REALLY?!?!

There were 20-25 regular parking spaces that were empty but this $H*C# was sitting in a handicapped parking space reserved for people like me who NEED the spaces. It was raining and I got damp, thankfully it wasn’t a monsoon or I would’ve had to run home and change, and I don’t have two hours to spend running up and down the road because somebody only cares about #1 and doesn’t care who she’s taking advantage of.

IMG_7176You know I wish some people would just show a little damn respect and think about the rest of us who have to park in a handicapped space to let our lifts down so we can go to work or wherever else we need to go. We are people too by God and it’s high time I took a stand and let people know that this kind of disrespect and abuse will stop.

I bet she would have raised T-total hell if she was the one in a wheelchair and I parked there and just sat there reading a damn book or took a nap while she figured out how she was going to get out……….. and you know what, I would’ve just sat there and not moved just to prove how hard it is on some of us who have to survive every day in a wheelchair while the rest of society passes us by and looks down their noses at us.

Author’s note: I just want to say how incredibly lucky and blessed I am to work in a place where my co-workers respect me and are willing to do whatever they can to help me when I need it. I will never, ever be able to thank my friends and co-workers for showing me the respect and giving me every opportunity to succeed. I just hope I can continue to do a good job.