My brother doesn’t want to talk about it. He doesn’t want to write about it. What seems to many something quite remarkable and admirable, is for him, very normal and not that big of a big deal.
The world is full of amazing stories that inspire us. For the first time, I want to tell this story because it’s very close to me. I want to share it because I lived it and I’m a proud witness of a life experience that is so rewarding. Simply reflecting on it has influenced the actions I’ve taken in my own life, and in a way the main character of the story can’t imagine.
Miguel is my older brother by 11 years. When I was 6 he was 17. During this time in our lives our family lived in Lima, Perú.
I still remember the night we received the phone call that made my parents dash out of the house at full speed, leaving me and my siblings with one of our aunts.
My brother, Miguel, had been in an accident.
From that point on, everything was sort of confusing to me since no one told us, the younger siblings, what was going on.
I remember that my parents went to Houston for months, leaving us kids with grandma and making lightning-speed trips, whenever they could, back to visit us to see how we were. We didn’t have internet or email. Just letters and really expensive international phone calls.
Almost a year later, my father very cleverly put together a trip for us to Disney World with another trip to Houston to see my brother. I remember it like it was yesterday – entering the main doors of the Houston House, where he lived a short distance from the medical center. I saw him sitting in a wheelchair, one that would accompany him the rest of his life.
That night, in 1979, my brother was in an accident that severed spinal cord. The result? Paralysis from the neck down.
What is fear? May I ask you.
What is fear, really? What are we afraid of?
I don’t know what would have happened to my life if at the age of 17 someone told me I’d never be able to walk again. I’m not sure I would have been able to get through the days, the weeks, the months… confined to a bed. The year of therapy, the multiple surgeries, the doubt and fear. I don’t know what went through my brother’s mind. I don’t know what he did to become who he is today. I don’t know if he was depressed. I don’t know if he cried or was scared. I don’t know because I’ve never seen him depressed or scared. What I do know, is that if I were in his shoes I would have panicked, shouted, cursed the world and everyone for my misfortune. I world would have turned into a gigantic, tumultuous and dark question mark.
But now I see my brother and I see a fulfilled man who radiates peace. I see a professional, totally independent with two college degrees and a masters and a wonderful marriage of over 25 years. I see a happy man. I see a well balanced man How? Why?
Miguel uses humor as a life skill. He’s not in a hurry, he doesn’t complain, he just lives day by day and as you might imagine, his life is full of stories.
I want to tell you one, from my point of view, that reflects his attitude in the face of problems, adversity and life in general.
Miguel lived in the dorms at the University of Houston for a few years. This was before the time of cell phones. On Sunday, he made plans to meet some friends to watch a football game at someone’s house.
“That morning, it was foggy and raining – he remembers – my car was parked in a small parking lot across from the dorm entrance. It’s an uncovered, open air lot, separate from the main parking garage. I had a six pack of beer with me to share with my friends while we watched the game.
As always, I started the process of moving from my chair to the car seat and then put my chair in the backseat. When I was in the process of going from my chair to the driver’s seat, the chair slipped on the wet pavement and I lost my balance and fell between the chair and my car. A bit confused as it happened, I saw my chair slowly rolling away, like in slow-motion.
Well, there I was on the ground in the middle of the parking lot without being able to climb into my chair or the car and the rain pouring on my face. Realizing I couldn’t do anything I started to shout for help: HELP! HELP! HELP! After shouting for 15 minutes I realized that there wasn’t a soul around to help me, no one was going to hear me, the parking lot was empty, it was Sunday and it was raining.
Knowing that at this point there was no way I was making it to the game and supposing that sooner or later someone would come along I decided to work to reach the cushion of my chair and sat on it leaning up against the car – why not make the most of it, no? So I opened up a beer. The pack had fall close to me and why let them get warm?
Probably an hour and a half later I could see an umbrella moving near by and I started to shout again. A “good samaritan” found me tossing around, soaked, and with “one too many to drink” on the ground of the parking lot laughing hysterically and surrounded by 6 empty bottles of beer. I missed the game but no one took the party away from me. “
How many times do we curse, insult, or complain when we don’t get what we want right when we want it?
I can’t avoid it. Every time something happens whether I get sick, or something goes wrong with my business, I let out my frustration. But immediately, I remember my brother and I shut my mouth.
He has been a great example of courage and perseverance. He’s taught me, maybe without even realizing it, and better than any self help book or motivational course out there that each one of us is responsible for how we live our lives no matter what life puts in front of us.
There are no external circumstances, only attitudes in the face of those circumstances.
He taught me that if you have a plan and you move on it you can accomplish anything. He taught me that having the right attitude is essential if you want to be happy and laughing at ourselves and our problems is probably one of the most useful therapies to ward off pain, frustration, denial, and difficulties.
I try to use what I learn and that’s why every time I think about him and his stories I can’t help but smile and end up laughing about life’s mishaps and my problems without really worrying about how many times I fall or how many times I get frustrated because someone has shut a door in my face whether it’s in business or in life. Who cares? If you keep knocking, someone will come, if you keep shouting someone will listen. Don’t you think? Don’t let anyone take the party away from you. Don’t let anyone get in the way of your enjoyment of this gift called life.
I just have to say: Thanks, Miguel.