Wednesday, April 29, 2009

no second chances

On Monday my Success professor's lecture was supposed to be about "speaking effectively".  He had, apparently, given it some thought and decided that instead he would show us a DVD produced by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration... or whatever that organization is, that he shares with highschool kids.  Its a pretty amazing video, featuring professor Berry's past.  You see, what I have never mentioned about him is a detail that is unimportant to his teaching, but a glaring omission on my part.

Professor Berry is paralyzed from the chest down.  He can move his arms, but his fingers are also paralyzed.  I think that his disability has probably made him a better person than he would have been had he had a normal life.  Let me share with you a few of the highlights of Mr Berry's DVD.  When A. Berry was in Highschool he pretty much had it made.  He was good looking (and trust me, he was pretty well beyond hot- I've seen a photo that proves it), had a cute girlfriend, a fast car, and he wrestled at a State level.  I reckon that he was a country boy, based on the stories he related to the students on the DVD.  Still, what happened to him next in his story pretty well sucked.  12 days after he turned 18, he snuck out with a friend, hopped in his car on slick roads, and "went" to a party.  He never got there.  A few miles away from his destination he hit a patch of what sounds like black ice going 65 mph, and totaled his car and himself.  He wasn't wearing a seatbelt, and on one hand, he was lucky to have survived the crash at all.  So now he's a lawyer, professor who teaches at the Community College, and divorced father of triplets.  I really like him.  I was all kinds of ready to "not like him" based on the fact that he's an attorney, but as it turns out, he's just a likable guy.  Since we're all about the confessions, I like him a lot.  So watching the DVD over lay with a powerpoint presentation that featured photos of him and his car before and after the wreck was surreal.  I was sick to my stomach.  Not because there was carnage or blood, because the only twisted body shown was the car.  No, I, in an instant, felt the loss of his dreams when he concluded the story.  Sure, he made new dreams, but it was still a terrible thing to happen to anyone, much less this handsome, cocky, bound for athletic success boy.  

I wonder what A must have felt when he watched my reaction to the DVD.  There was no hiding how I felt.  I guess he must have wondered the same because as I left the classroom on Monday night he asked me to stay back for just a second.  He asked if I could maybe send him an e-mail with a short critique on his delivery and style.  I used to make a living doing public speaking stints at the Navy Base about how to prepare for an interview.  He knows that, because of a previous assignment, so maybe he thought my critique would be helpful to him.

How in the world could I possibly compare my empty and emotionless talk about interview preparation to the life altering experiences that this man has endured?  Yes, he says he is over it and he's moved on, but you know, as I watched him deliver that speech, I know he's not over it.  He must still have days when he looks around and realizes that life didn't give him a second chance.  He never got his "free one".  I think everyone has one of those instances in their lives where they know they got a pass.  Like, when your toddler spills a cup of coffee down their fronts, and it turns out it was cold coffee.  Or, when you forget to buckle your child into their car seat and you realize it at the bottom of the driveway.  When you were in college and got into a car with someone who may or may not have been sober.  When a friend says something that stops you from acting on an impulse.  

There are so many possibilities of "free ones" in my adult life, I sort of wonder why someone like me gets so many and someone else, like A, didn't get one.

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