My usual routine on Saturday morning is to brew up a hot pot of coffee and sit down with the New York Times, and last Saturday was no exception.
I expected to find many articles dealing with the latest financial crisis, government bailout, and last Thursday’s vice-presidential debate, and I was not disappointed.
But I also found something that managed to put all of that news on my mental and emotional back burner, and refocused my attention in a more philosophical and spiritual way – back to the “secrets of life”.
I had written about what I thought was the core secret a few weeks ago – the concept of never growing up, and thus keeping our child-like wonder and amazement at the world around us.
While on one level I was satisfied that I had “nailed it”, something had been nagging at me of late – there was something missing in my formula to happiness and fulfillment, and what’s more, it was most “unchild-like”.
That something appeared on the pages of the New York Times. After reading this article, I am now prepared to amend my previous declaration.
The Real Secret of Life for me now reads:
“Never Grow Up, and Never Give Up”
Who was the inspiration for this amendment? A woman named Heba Said Ahmed.
Ms. Ahmed was the subject of the paper’s weekly feature called “The Saturday Profile”.
She recently won a Gold Medal for Egypt in power lifting during the recent Paralympic Games in Beijing, after being stricken with Polio as a child that left her without the use of her legs.
What struck me about her was her drive and determination to succeed, despite the many obstacles she faces in her home country. As the article explained:
“It is hard to overstate how different Ms. Ahmed is from many of those around her. It is all about attitude. Egypt is filled with people who face adversity, most often a function of poverty and systemic indifference. It is a class-based society with an unwritten contract that many people believe condemns them to live as they were born, poor and marginalized. There is a pervasive feeling of impotence, a collective belief that fighting back is futile.
But Ms. Ahmed never refers to fate; she talks about choices. She doesn’t talk about obstacles; she talks about challenges”
Living is challenging enough for those of us enough fortunate enough to live in societies that tend to be more open and optimistic about our individual chances for success, but for Ms. Ahmed, the bar is much, much higher.
But she’s clearing it, with room to spare. Because she refuses to give up, and give into all the preconceptions. “There’s no such thing as a handicap”, she says. “A handicap is in your thinking, or in your heart”.
In Egypt, “people tend to look away from disabled people, as if they are invisible. There is no such thing as access for them. The curbs are a foot high”. For Ms. Ahmed, these barriers are simply looked at as ways to strengthen her character for future challenges– because there is no way to go but forward.
Now that she’s won accolades abroad for her athletic feats, she’s thinking even bigger – marriage and family.
“I want to raise children and raise them well. I want them to be champions, too.”
After reading this inspiring (and life theory amending) article, I would not bet against her.
Thanks Ms. Ahmed, for reminding me that a child-like mindset must be matched with a grown-up will and inner strength.
“Never grow up, and Never give up”.