Breaking down my excuses


Jason A. Smith

Columnist


“No excuses.”

Those words have been bouncing around in my head a lot in the last few days. Many of us have made excuses a time or two for why we don’t do certain things, and I’m certainly no exception.

But lately, I’ve been increasingly thankful for people in my life who take away those excuses by the way they live their lives.

Throughout my career of working in newspapers, so many inspiring people have crossed my path whose stories I’m proud to share with readers of this newspaper. In particular, I’ve developed a great deal of respect for the special-needs community, and everyone associated with it.

A lot of people in that community exemplify the no-excuses mentality – from athletes and coaches to politicians and motivational speakers – and I’ve been able to chronicle a lot of their achievements through stories I’ve written over time. I’m always amazed by not only everything they’ve accomplished in their lives, but the attitude with which they’ve done it.

For the longest time, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why I felt such a connection to individuals with special needs. But, as is often the case, my wife was able to piece this connection together.

A few days ago, she and I were discussing the life of someone we hold dear even though we had never met him --author Ronald Dahl, who would have turned 100 years old this month. In addition to writing books like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda,” Dahl also helped – in the early 1960s -- to develop a shunt for people with hydrocephalus, also known as fluid on the brain, from which his son suffered following a car accident.

I was born with hydrocephalus. I received my shunt when I was eight weeks old, a little over a decade after it was developed. I had several surgeries throughout my childhood to maintain and lengthen it, with the last one being when I was 11 or 12 years old. As a result, I had to be extra careful not to do anything that could damage the shunt.

Truth be told, however, I probably took it to the extreme of making excuses for not doing things I didn’t want to do, or didn’t think I could do.

I remember the first time I saw someone who I was told had hydrocephalus, but didn’t have a shunt. She was wheelchair-bound with a swelled head, and couldn’t fend for herself. The image has always stuck with me. That could have been me, if not for Dahl and his son. I could have easily fallen into the special-needs category.

Instead, these days I pretty much go through life not even thinking about the shunt most of the time. Sure, I’ve never been able to participate in contact sports. But aside from that, I’m blessed to live a fairly normal life.

I’m a firm believer that God brings people into our lives either to teach us something, or to allow us to teach them. My interaction with the special-needs community has taught me so much, and I’m still learning. Through God’s providence, I’ve also been able to meet others who continue to face challenges similar to those from which He spared me.

Knowing this, I have no excuse not to try to be all He created me to be.

Jason has worked in newspapers since 2005, spending the majority of that time in Henry County. He lives in Covington with his wife and daughter.