Sunday, June 24, 2007

Summer Conference Kicks Off in Spokane

And what a great way to start things off. Beautiful summer weather, lots of wonderful pre-conferences and tonight, a friendly reception and dinner in the newly renovated Spokane Convention Center. But the most uplifting moment of the day came when the evening's speaker, Alvin Law, took the stage.

Born without arms (the result of thalidomide use by his birth mother), Law quickly engaged the audience with his witty personality and self-depricating humor.

A native of Yorktown, Saskatchewan, Law was adopted by woman who had already raised two boys but at age 55, opened her home and her heart to him. She was, he noted, "the first person who looked at me and saw a future; everyone else saw a problem." Growing up, his mother (and father) cut him no slack, encouraging him to use his feet and requiring him to complete his chores--mowing the lawn, taking out the trash and vacuuming -- just like his brothers.

Where many are moved to see Law's adaptiveness as "amazing," he reminded the audience that not ever having had arms, he feels completely normal. He drives. He carries his own luggage. He does everything other people with arms and hands do; he just uses his feet. For Law, other people's perceived limitations of him have been the biggest obstacle to overcome -- not the apparent "disability." Law related a story about the time his family attended an grade school open house, in anticipation of his starting school. The principal, sizing up the young Law, dismissed the notion ("He's got no arms!" the principal said. "What do you call that?" he asked Law's parents. "Alvin," his mother replied.). The principal stood fast, insisting the young man would be bullied. His family patiently persisted, insisting Law would handle those situations on his own. Law started school the next day.

Law shared several humorous stories about his experiences growing up in school -- too many to mention here (his book, Alvin's Laws of Life, likely captures many of these gems). An affable, wickedly funny speaker, Law's thoughts on humanity, personal challenge and just plain growing up were thought-provoking and authentic. Here are just a few of the humorous and compelling observations he made during tonight's presentation:
  • "Positive attitudes are better than negative attitudes. Duh! Even stupid people know that!"
  • "I can teach a child about my life in about 35 seconds. How do I know they've learned it? They change the subject."
  • "Kids have an amazing ability to stop looking at what I didn't have."
  • "The biggest challenge has not been not having arms. It's been people."
  • "It's good to be alive."

No comments: