Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Frame of Reference


I have been seeing this, or some just like it all over the web lately. The first time I saw it, it was motivational. "That's a good point," I thought. If this little kid can run with no legs, then I have no reason for not getting off my ass and accomplishing things in life. Then it started showing up more and more places. Then I saw it posted by people that I've known for years that are full of excuses and incomplete things in their lives. I realized that I've always given less than a shit about what they do with themselves and now, as they post this, I judge them for it.

So I started to think about this little kid. I'm sorry he lost his legs in whatever horrific event he was a part of. It's terrible that he is limited for the rest of his life. It is fantastic that he was born with the disposition and "never give up" attitude to overcome it as best he can and do it with a smile.

The truth of the matter is that using a child in a picture like this as a pawn to convince other people they are lazy, is hitting below the belt. Not everyone can endure the same level of stress. Not everyone can remain sunny after life knocks them down. And his problems are his own, my are my own and everyone else's problems are their own. What I'm trying to say is that while this kid has it worse than a lot of people and remains in smiles, it's comparing apples and oranges to expect the same out of everyone else.

That's where the title comes in. Frame of reference. You can only compare your problems to your life. He doesn't count. Lots of factors come into play. I tell people all the time that they cannot put their values on other people and judge them when they don't get the response they are looking for. People are people and they are all different.

I have my problems. I have problems that start in my feet, get real bad in my lower legs, affect my knees, thighs, hips and then lower back. And I stand and teach for 9 hours each day anyway. That's my life, that's my story. Nobody else can be measured against that. I can't run a half mile. But I have my legs. Should my excuse of my leg problems be invalidated because the kid above is running with NO legs? Not to be a complete dick, but I'm pretty sure he can't feel pain in either prostheses. I can certainly feel pain in the locations where those scoops would be. So my problems are my own, as are my excuses.

Some years ago, 1996ish, there was a big discrepancy about those types of prostheses in the Olympics and whether they should be allowed. The Olympic committed found, at the time, that they gave an unfair advantage to the athlete. They don't fatigue, for example. People got outraged. "How dare they say this young man has an advantage? He lost his legs." That's not what was being said. He has an advantage in the only circumstance the Olympic committee oversees - running. And being somewhat bionic, it makes sense. Frame of reference. The committee wasn't ruling that they couldn't participate because their life was better. Nobody would say that, and it's not their place.  But as a runner... a determination was made.

I guess the point is that there are many people, each with their own lives and each life has its own little caveats here and there. It is unfair to measure everyone with the same yard stick. If that's the case then put a picture of Temple Grandin and tell us our excuses are invalid. I bet most people don't even know who she is. She overcame. President Roosevelt sat behind the desk in the Oval Office with Polio. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs changed the world forever, both without college degrees. Everyone has the freedom to do whatever they want in life, but within the confines of their own situation and levels of comfortability and ability.

So get this kid out of my face. I'm not him. His problems are not my problems. I'm in my lane, running my race according to my own parameters and circumstances. I will measure myself against my aptitude and choices. I will not seek validation of my decisions or excuses by how well they stack up against this child.

One more thing. This kid is running a race and smiling in this photo. Do you think for one moment there have not been days that this kid has been cranky, ornery, and miserable at the world for no legs? Do you think he gets up EVERY day with his toothy smile ready to take on the world? So now you're not even judging people against people. You're judging people against 1/500 of a second of someone else's life.

You say my excuse is invalid. I say your argument is.

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