What’s your handicap?

Recently, I paid for an online marketing class designed for fiction authors. It forced me to rethink many things, including changing my domain name, which I did. The new one now resides at michaelcantwellbooks.com and is almost complete. It led me to exploring the basics of WordPress to design the site, as well as learning two other programs. Over the course of a couple of weeks, while heading up another steep learning curve, I held my own personal pity party wondering why I had to work so hard to sell books. The party didn’t last long for several reasons, but I wanted to tell you about one.

Most reading this never had the honor of knowing Jim Staerk. I met Jim at LaSalle during my college days. He lived most of his life in a wheel chair because of a horrid disease, yet you would never know it. Jim lived his life with a permanent smile plastered across his face. He didn’t have a handicap. You were the one who was handicapped if you thought of Jim of anything less than someone who lived life to the fullest. He spent most of his successful career working for a District Attorney’s office and attended more social events than ants showing up at a picnic.

Jim and I joined the same college fraternity. One summer, we rented a house at the Jersey Shore. He spent many days with us. If we went out to nightclubs, Jim would be popping wheelies on the dance floor and hitting on any woman within earshot. Even though he couldn’t play flag football, he would be rooting us on. The point being, I never knew of a time when he allowed his mobility restrictions to stop him from enjoying his time on earth. Sometimes, I think of Jim when my cranky back acts up, or I wonder why I have work hard to learn something new. He would have scolded me for bitching.

I think the last time I saw Jim in person was at a wedding. Not sure how, but the garter ended up in his lap. He wore that same endless smile in that moment that he flashed most of his life. Because we lived 1200 miles apart, I lost direct touch with Jim for many years until the invention of Facebook. We reconnected and would occasionally speak with each other late in the evenings. The last time we linked up was only a couple weeks before he took his endless passion for life to heaven. During our last chat, he offered a few writing tips and told me about the authors he enjoyed.

Jim’s energy never expired even if we did disconnect the motor on his wheelchair more than once. Nothing ever stopped him. Learning a few new programs shouldn’t stop me from achieving my goals. I refuse to allow a few negative thoughts to become a handicap. A lesson I learned from my friend Jim Staerk many years ago.

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