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Saturday, February 02, 2008

"Oh Yes You Can!!!"

I guess kayaking may not be considered mainstream for the handicapped or perhaps the "kayak challenged", and perhaps kayaking may not be considered mainstream period, but I never believe for a minute that you cannot do it. Like most challenges you have to want it bad enough. I was inspired one summer in 2004 when a hearing impaired 14 year old called Lynn wanted to learn to roll. I had given her and her sister a kayaking lesson a year before and apparantly they had continued to paddle. I was delighted but not surprised because it is my experience that most who take the time to get a lesson, stick with the sport in some way. I asked Lynn's Mom if she was committed to do this. You betcha! I gave Lynnn 8 hrs of my time that summer, it turned out to be some of the best hours I'd given anyone or anything.
I figured I'm being challenged too. I asked her mother if there was a sign book I could borrow, so that I could learn some sign, and of course there was and I think Lynn saw this as a connecting gesture on my part and her conrtibutions were relentless. My progress signing was on par with hers rolling. We started slow but finished big. Never did she sign "I can't or let's quit" it wasn't in her sign vocabulary, if that makes sense.
What turned out to be her last lesson, started with her mom wheeling her dad on the dock as he was a parapalegic from an accident and her sister hoping in her boat and with Lynn in hers I told her today we will do some warm-ups which consisted of me holding on her blade, slighlty while she rolled up, we were stuck at this impasse. So I decided on the second warm up to release my hold on the blade and hold my hands in the air. When Lynn rolled up and saw my hands she realized what she had done, she had rolled, the look on her face was, well....priceless. She had the biggest smile I had ever seen on anyone, all she could think to do was to sign thank you. Her family was elated,as her dad sat weeping from the dock I knew how special it had been for all of them. She was going to be instructed by a real instructor the rest of that year in the lower mainland of British Columbia while attending school. Apparantly there is an Olympics for people challenged in various ways and it was Lynn's dream to participate. I was but a mere spoke of many in the wheel she had yet to complete.
But when my friend said the other day at age forty, he was too old to paddle, I said, "Oh yes you can!"
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Michael said...


Silbs said...

Kudos to both of you. It would seem you brought out the best in one another.

Douglas Wilcox said...

What a great story! I work with disabled people and I am constantly amazed by their "can do" attitude. Your 40 year old friend is the one with the serious disability. Help him before it's too late!

Stan Mac Kenzie said...

Your absolutely right Douglas and my friend will be paddling before years end. Just has some kind a mind block with water. It is rewarding working with disabled and the young. I use to work in a children's hospital and was amazed at the abilities of such young peoples when many would right them off as just being too young.