So I just started a new book. Found it in a cafe/bookstore that was practically giving amazing reading pieces away. SOLID find. I obviously bought about a billion books and couldn’t have walked out with a bigger grin on my face. Anyways, this book is called “Just As I Am- The Life of David Ring” and just as with most of the books I picked up that day, I’d never heard of this one and wasn’t completely sure what it was about when I bought it. I had no idea who David Ring was, but because it seemed clear to me that it was a book about loving who you are just the way that you are, and so I was intrigued and wanted to find out.
When I first opened the book, I saw the words, “David Ring Eph. 3:20,21” written right there on the otherwise blank very first page. At first I thought a child had scribbled in the book. It didn’t bother me, as I knew I was purchasing an old book, but I did take notice of it. But after a moment I realized that although the handwriting was scribbly, it actually had more mature form and the words written were not words I would imagine a child would write. It looked more shaky as though an older man or woman had written it, possibly while sitting in a moving car. It boggled my mind, because when I considered it in that way, I thought about the man in the picture on the cover of the book, who I assumed was David Ring. I mean, why else would anyone else be on the cover of a book about the life of David Ring, right? But the man on the cover was not an old man at all; he was a younger man who I assumed was about 40 years old. So then I was even more confused because I couldn’t think of a reason that an elderly man or woman would write the author’s name followed by a bible passage. It just didn’t make sense… and then it hit me. I realized this must truly be the signature of the author, who I still assumed was the person in the photo on the cover of the book, and the handwriting must be a part of his story. I immediately imagined his story to be one that included a something of a physical ailment, such as cerebral palsy, and this was his official author’s autograph I was looking at. I thought of the story I was about to read being one of victory over a major physical struggle which he could have seen as a hindrance, but instead chose to see as an opportunity to love himself just as he is and share his story as an inspiration for others to do the same… and those are my favorite kinds of stories! I still didn’t know who he was, but what I did know before even reading a word of his story is that he must be an incredibly strong, inspiring, and beautiful person, and I was already excited to absorb the words he had to share.
And that autograph? It already felt celebrity.
I haven’t even made it through the first chapter yet and I simply had to write about it. I had to share the way this man’s story has already touched my heart because people like him are important. Their existence is much more significant than meets the eye, and it blows me away each and every time I learn a new story of another beautiful soul.
Basically, I was correct in my assumptions. David Ring is a man who has cerebral palsy, and it creates a lot of physical difficulties in his life including the basics like walking, writing, and speech, among many other aspects of course. But what spoke to me right away in the words I was reading was the clearly confident and even humorous disposition he has in regards to the ways in which he’s aware that his differences are perceived by others. For example, he joked about the way people might be studying him and said that he was studying them too, and that he’s thinking it’s going to be difficult to learn to like them (he says this in a light-hearted way, of course). He also jokes about the ways he knows his speech is difficult to understand and asked people to not let it bother them, as it doesn’t belong to them, it belongs to him… and then assures them it’s not contagious, so they can’t catch it.
It was just refreshing to see that this man understands that his cerebral palsy does not define him; it is simply a part of the life he lives, and he welcomes it with confidence. I’m sure he has not always held that position and I have no doubt that he has his difficult days, as he’s human just like the rest of us, but for him to have come to a place of such strength and excitement in life undoubtedly took courage, dedication, faith, and love for himself and for others. Without knowing much of his story yet at all, I know that this man has experienced an immense amount of struggle in his life, but he did not remain in a victim “woe is me” place. He picked himself back up when he fell, he recognized the strength he could gain if he allowed himself to, and he continued moving forward carrying the good from those struggles and leaving behind the bad. That much is obvious thus far, and it’s beautiful. I’m a fan already.
I think the most significant part of the words I’ve read up to this point is a sentence in which David calls himself “a trophy of God’s grace”. That floors me. Not because I don’t agree or don’t understand how he could see himself in such a positive light- I absolutely agree and am so happy to know that he sees himself in the wonderful, beautiful light that he should see himself in. But what takes me aback from that is knowing that others don’t see that… many would have a very difficult time seeing themselves as anything of that positive caliber if they were to be in his shoes, and many even look down upon him and people like him as if they are less than valuable because of their differences. Yet not only is he able to see himself with such beauty, but he’s actually grateful to God for his life. He’s thankful when so many others would be focusing on what they wish they had or didn’t have. He believes God has blessed him and given him grace when so many others would believe God had forsaken them. This man has strength, resilience, and a love for life that many of the most seemingly “perfect” people in the world only dream about and continuously strive for in the wrong ways that only consistently leave them empty-handed… I’d say he’s pretty on point… he is very blessed.
Something else this story brings to mind for me is that while he undoubtedly has experienced physical pain, I’m also quite certain that much of his pain and struggle in life has come from the fact that he’s “different” and, therefore, encountered many difficulties with others that made living within his differences much harder and more painful than it ever should have been. The fact that anyone ever thinks they should have to feel embarrassed or ashamed if they are different in any seemingly significant way, such as with a limp, or a different size/shape of a body or body part, different ways of speaking or learning, different clothing or ways of living, etc., just blows me away. These differences are precisely what make each and every one of us beautiful! This man, David Ring, wouldn’t be the incredible, inspiring, funny, strong, motivating, insightful, wise, resilient, impactful “trophy of God’s grace” if he didn’t have cerebral palsy. I’m sure he would still be a great person without it, and I’m not saying that cerebral palsy is something that people should strive to acquire, as clearly it does incorporate many other struggles with it that have nothing to do with the social impact it has on life. But I am saying that the very difference in this man that many people might feel should be a source of insecurity and even shame is the very trait of him that has contributed majorly to him being the incredible person he is and reaching the people he reaches with his story and example.
Our differences only matter in whatever way we allow them to. They are only something to be ashamed of if we allow ourselves to think they should be.
So what if anyone else has something different to say about it? I’m sure David has had plenty of people along his journey who have believed that he was less worthy or valuable in some way and expressed those thoughts to him. And I’m sure that at times he allowed those opinions to get to him and make him feel badly. But what I’m also sure about is that he did not remain in that negative space and allow those thoughts to seep into his innermost core and become a part of his belief system or hinder his progress in moving forward to becoming the great man he was meant to be. Instead, he realized that those people’s opinions don’t ultimately matter as long as he knows how wonderful and amazing he is and he believes in that. And by taking on that strength within himself, David not only helped himself back up from potentially debilitating mindsets and experiences, but he showed others that it can be done and, as a result, empowered them to do the same for themselves.
It’s a really beautiful thing… by choosing to love ourselves, not only are we making our own experience in life more pleasant and enjoyable, but we’re empowering others to do the same for themselves, and we’re setting an example for them to see the beauty in the differences all around us, rather than to condemn and judge it with negativity. Loving ourselves and loving others is the most powerful purpose we can have in this life! It manifests in different ways for each of us according to our different talents, passions, etc., but ultimately, if loving ourselves and others is what makes the foundation of what we’re doing, it will have a powerful effect on our life and the life of others around us. David Ring is a prime example of that and he knows it, which is why he loves his life so much, despite all of the immense struggles, and calls himself “a trophy of God’s grace”… because he truly is! We all are. We just have to believe it. ❤