What’s on your bucket list? How many of the items have you been able to check off? So far, I’ve got surfing, bungee jumping, being part of a major theater production and etc on my list, and all, unfortunately, unchecked. In fact, there are several things that I want to accomplish but haven’t been able to do so because I either (a) don’t have time, (b) am too afraid, or (c) *insert another lame excuse here*. The list of reasons as to why I can’t do the things I want to do is much longer than my bucket list, how sad is that? Thankfully, my perspective on the things have changed over the last two years, with one of the reasons being a YouTube video I chanced upon that featured a man born without limbs, Nick Vujicic.
Born with tetra-amelia syndrome, Nick was diagnosed with a rare condition that left him without arms and legs. Despite this genetic anomaly, the 30-year-old Serbian-Australian has traveled to over 44 countries and has given 2,000 inspirational talks to hundreds of thousands of people. Commonly referred to as the man without limbs, Nick leads an active life and enjoys surfing, sky diving, swimming, enjoys “kicking” a soccer ball or two and has added “being a father of a lovely baby boy” to his list of favorite things to do. Quite a feat considering that most of us, despite our being “normal”, can only dream of being able to do what he has done.
But life wasn’t always fun and games for the internationally renowned speaker. Growing up, Nick’s parent’s didn’t want to hold him back from the opportunities that life had to offer to “normal folk”, so as opposed to being home schooled because of his condition, he was enrolled in the mainstream educational system. This led to numerous instances wherein he fell prey to bullies through out grade school and high school. Nick says that despite constantly being picked on, he did not have a horrible childhood, and that like any other person, it was marked by ups and downs. There were times wherein Nick said that he’d hit rock bottom so hard that he resorted to attempting suicide, but because of the love and affection that he shared with his tight-knit family, he suddenly found the courage and inspiration to look beyond his circumstances and to LIVE.
Taken from his site “Attitude is Altitude”, Nick says,
When I was fifteen years old, I sealed my faith in God and from there it has been an amazing journey.
A janitor at my high school inspired me to start speaking about my faith and overcoming adversity when I was seventeen. I spoke only a dozen times to very small groups over the next two years. Then I found myself in front of three hundred sophomore (grade 10) students and I was very nervous. My knees were shaking. Within the first three minutes of my talk, half the girls were crying, and most of the boys were struggling to hold their emotions together. One girl in particular was sobbing very hard. We all looked at her and she put her hand up. She said, “I am so sorry to interrupt, but can I come up and hug you?”
She came hugged me in front of everyone, and whispered in my ear, “Thank you, thank you, thank you. No one has ever told me that they loved me and that I am beautiful the way I am.”
Her gratitude inspired me to go across 44 countries and speak 2,000 times. I realized that we all need love and hope and that I was in a unique position to share that with people around the world.
Last May 18, I had the pleasure of listening to Nick speak during the press conference of his Manila stopover for his “Unstoppable” tour. Anyone who’s ever been to a press conference would know how hectic things get as questions are called out one after the other, or how everyone is grappling to get that perfect shot. Contrary to the norm, Nick’s press conference was quiet and orderly as everyone was properly seated, eager to hear the man speak and when he did, all hung onto every word he said. Nick started off with a summary of his testimony and then proceeded to answer the questions the media had prepared for him. There were questions that ranged from how to deal with discouragement, how being a father had changed his life to what his greatest fears were. Nick gamely answered everything.
Out of the many nuggets of wisdom that Nick imparted, it was what follows that struck me the most: according to Nick, life’s greatest disability isn’t being born with a missing limb or two, life’s greatest disability is FEAR. Fear of going beyond your comfort zone, of being ridiculed, fear of the unknown, and more importantly, fear of failing. He mentioned that the problem with people these days is that their lack of courage outweighs their gusto to achieve something.
“You don’t need courage to win, you need courage to lose”, he said.
He then went on to tell us about the first time he really wanted to give talks to high school students. He called 53 schools and out of the 53, only one accepted his proposal. Years later, thousands of people across the globe are clamoring to book him for a speaking engagement. According to Nick, it is perfectly fine to be nervous once in a while and to be unsure of future circumstances, but to let that fear cripple you and deter you from who you can and ought to be is a sad way to live. Life was meant to be lived with a purpose.
Nick went on to say that although circumstances may prove difficult for you to see why you are here on Earth and why this or that happened, one has to continue on with their struggle to do what is pleasing to the Lord because if we don’t put our faith in something (God), we lose faith in everything and ultimately, our reason to live. Life doesn’t always make sense, and it won’t ever as we are merely humans that will never be able to fully comprehend whatever great plan God has for us, so the best that we can do, is to struggle along and use our capabilities to the fullest in service to the Lord.
Another highlight of the press conference was a real tearjerker. A woman came up to the microphone with her grandson and thanked Nick for being such an inspiration to her and that she and her 9 year old grandson have been watching his videos since he was 4. They then wanted to give tokens of appreciation to him which entailed a little jeepney figurine and a hand written letter from the boy. Moved by this gesture, Nick asked that the lady and her grandson be allowed to go on-stage as he wanted to hug them both. It was on stage that the woman revealed that there were several instances in her life when she felt like a mess and a failure. She had had her daughter out of wedlock and had hoped that her daughter wouldn’t follow suit, unfortunately, the daughter gave birth to the grandson out of wedlock as well. But then they came across Nick’s videos and were so inspired by the man, despite his being limbless, who always seemed to have a smile on his face and who always praised God for his circumstances. It was Nick who prompted the woman to take charge of her negative feelings, of her familial situation and to ultimately take charge of her life to better it for her and her grand son. I wish I had taken pictures of this, but, while the woman was on stage, she was struggling to take a video of herself with Nick so I took it upon myself to get her iPad and to video this precious moment for her.
The press conference was truly a heart warming and blessed experience that I will keep with me. I’m sure that the over 26,000 Filipinos who were able to attend Nick’s talks in Christ Commission Fellowship, Araneta Center and SM Mall of Asia in the succeeding days feel the same way too. May we all take a note from Nick and learn to live life without fear and with purpose, may well strive to be, UNSTOPPABLE.
Nick Vujicic in Manila: UNSTOPPABLE 2013