As I was reading C.R. Wagschal's book "You Can Make a Difference", I came across an important story. The wheelchair bound author tells of her search for a mobility vehicle and her meeting with the Chief Officer of the Mobility Assessment Center, David Griffiths MBE.
Mr. Griffiths, who passed away in 1999, was severely disabled -- at least in the physical sense. He had no feet or arms and his "facial features were difficult for the eye to take in." Yet the author left his office full of neither revulsion nor pity.
Instead she was moved and inspired. As she puts it, "Here was an individual who was badly handicapped, disfigured and limited, yet had traveled all round Europe and Russia, fulfilling his life's ambition to enable severely disabled people to be as independent as possible -- all this without readily available funds.
"Here was a human being who, despite much adversity, gave so much to others."
Who we are is all about character and internal strengths, not our physical assets.
Although we frequently pontificate about the body being a house for the soul, just an external shell protecting the Divine within, it's often just words. Not so for Mrs. Wagschal and Mr. Griffiths. They provide us with an opportunity to clearly acknowledge and understand that who we are is all about character and internal strengths, and not our physical assets -- whether they be looks, careers, cars or houses.
Mrs. Wagschal believes that disabled individuals are crying out, "Love me as I am and see beyond the externals -- beyond that which will, in any case, eventually be consumed by worms… Acknowledge the Divine in every human being, for all were created in the Image of God… Every one of us is, or can be a "somebody"!"
I don't think this cry is unique to the handicapped. It is the cry of every human being.
It is a cry that reminds us to look beneath the surface to discover who people really are. It is cry that prods us to search for that hidden treasure. It is a cry that reveals to us the secret of touching the Divine. It is a cry that explains to us how to fulfill our responsibility to love others.
And it is a cry that ultimately teaches us how to love ourselves. Every one of us is a somebody. If we don't recognize that about ourselves, we won't be able to see it in anyone else. If we don't believe it about ourselves, we won't be able to believe it about our fellow human beings.
David Griffith's soul shone beyond his physical limitations. We all have the potential and ability to do the same. Once we activate our own capacity for love and caring, once we acknowledge our own unique good and our connection to the Infinite, then we will see it more clearly than others. We will be surrounded by shining souls!
Each new year we have the chance to remake ourselves, to start afresh. We can begin this year by recognizing that we are somebody -- and then doing something about it.