..with gratitude…learn how to dance in the rain?

The following story came to me from a keen learner, Rashmi….. talking about ‘Attitude for gratitude’. I have my own experience to share about my inspirations in life… go through this story before I narrate my experience…
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The date was July 16, 2008. It was late in the afternoon and I was sitting in my hotel room in Louisville, Kentucky. I was scheduled to speak that evening for the Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA).

I was a little “down in the dumps.” I hadn’t gotten to exercise lately because of my traveling schedule and recently I’d experienced some mild bouts of vertigo (that inner ear condition that can cause the room to start spinning.) You got it…speaking and “spinning” are not good partners!

My keynote presentation was scheduled for 7:00 PM, but I had been invited to show up at 6:00 to see a performance they said I’d enjoy. Little did I know that I was about to see something I would never forget.

They introduced the young musician. Welcome…Mr. Patrick Henry Hughes. He was rolled onto the stage in his wheelchair, and began to play the piano. His fingers danced across the keys as he made beautiful music.

He then began to sing as he played, and it was even more beautiful. For some reason, however, I knew that I was seeing something special. There was this aura about him that I really can’t explain and the smile…his smile was magic!

About ten minutes into Patrick’s performance, someone came on the stage and said…”I’d like to share a 7-minute video titled, The Patrick Henry Hughes story.” And the lights went dim.

Patrick Henry Hughes was born with no eyes, and a tightening of the joints which left him crippled for life. However, as a child, he was fitted with artificial eyes and placed in a wheelchair. Before his first birthday, he discovered the piano. His mom said, “I could hit any note on the piano, and within one or two tries, he’d get it.” By his second birthday, he was playing requests (You Are My Sunshine, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star). His father was ecstatic. “We might not play baseball, but we can play music together.”

Today, Patrick is a junior at the University of Louisville. His father attends classes with him and he’s made nearly all A’s, with the exception of 3 B’s He’s also a part of the 214 member marching band. You read it right…the marching band! He’s a blind, wheelchair-bound trumpet player; and he and his father do it together. They attend all the band practices and the half-time performance in front of thousands. His father rolls and rotates his son around the field to the cheers of Patrick’s fans. In order to attend Patrick’s classes and every band practice, his father works the graveyard shift at UPS. Patrick said…”My dad’s my hero.”

But even more than his unbelievable musical talent, it was Patrick’s “attitude of gratitude” that touched my soul. On stage, between songs, he would talk to the audience about his life and about how blessed he was. He said, “God made me blind and unable to walk. BIG DEAL! He gave me the ability…the musical gifts I have…the great opportunity to meet new people.”

When his performance was over, Patrick and his father were on the stage together. The crowd rose to their feet and cheered for over five minutes. It gave me giant goose bumps!

My life was ready to meet Patrick Henry Hughes. I needed a hero, and I found one for the ages. If I live to be a hundred, I’ll never forget that night, that smile, that music, but most importantly, that wonderful “attitude of gratitude.”

I returned to Chicago and shared Patrick’s story with my wife, my friends. About two weeks later, I received a letter from a friend. He said, “Mac, I don’t know who said it, but I think you’ll love this quote.”

“Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass…
it’s about learning how to dance in the rain!”

I thought…that’s it! We all face adversity in our life. However, it’s not the adversity, but how we react to it that will determine the joy and happiness in our life. During tough times, do we spend too much time feeling sorry for ourselves, or, can we, with gratitude…learn how to dance in the rain?

It almost sounds too simple to feel important, but one word…gratitude, can change your attitude, thus, your life, forever. Sarah Breathnack said it best…

“When we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present….we experience heaven on earth.”

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I have been enjoying creating interesting learning environments and facilitating learning for over a decade now. There have been many outstanding learners in my classrooms, but One person who stands out is Pranav Lal. Every mentor in the classroom would have heard his familiar words, “Can you repeat it”, “Explain me a little slowly”, “Can you give some time to discuss”… Pranav used to sit in the first row of the class with a dictaphone in hand, recording every utterances and discussions. He would not let the class progress until the concept is clear to him. He is an extraordinary human being… visually challenged and also physically with one hand.

Pranav was then preparing for CAT, the Indian management school entrance examination. The effort that he put was beyond imagination. One of my colleagues and another inspiration, Shivku, who is a passionate and compassionate human being, and a great teacher, used to spend extraordinary number of hours every day late into the nights to help Pranav catch up with the competition. The interactions and lessons new know boundaries in those six months of preparation.

Shivku and Pranav, applied to the CAT organizers, requesting them to give additional time to Pranav, because of the unusual situation the aspirant is in. The CAT organizers in that year gave a word that they would give Pranav an hour more for his extraordinary situation. Unfortunately on the D-day when the CAT happened, the examination centre officials denied any knowledge of the promise of giving extra time to Pranav. Like all other aspirants, Pranav was asked to surrender his answer sheets at the end of the two hours. It came as a shock to all. But Pranav, proved that he is a great character, inspite of all the travails, he ended up getting an admission in one of the top 10 B-schools of the country, though could not get into an IIM.

Pranav, became a colleague of ours for a couple of years after finishing his B-School, when he joined Career Launcher and took care of MIS and decision support systems. As he was interested in consulting, he moved to Mahindra Group. Today he is one of the very few consultants internationally in demand in the area of internet security for corporates, working with the Special Services Group in Mahindra, where he is an Associate Consultant now with a focus on internet securities. Apart from his regular office, Pranav Lal is an executive member of the National Association for the Blind, Delhi, and a member of the Managing Committee of the Volunteers for the Blind. Over the years he has represented India in the Abilympics many a times. Even in those days of preparing, he used to be so proficient with computing and internet technologies that he used to read very proficiently using speech recognition and synthesis tools. His contribution to the world of visually impaired in our country has been enormous even though he is still in his early 30s.

He has always been very independent ever since I have known him. His parents shared that he has been so since his childhood. His dedication towards whatever he does has been a great source of inspiration, since he goes all the way and make things happen. ……

This journey of Pranav’s I have been part of since a decade ago in 1999…Recently, I got to know about another visually challenged girl from one of our classrooms, who made it to one of the IIMs…

I am sure there are many such characters like Pranav out there… who enjoy dancing in the rain, even though the almighty has not been kind. They make their world a place to revel in… I salute each one…

sreeni@iwsb.in

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