The Gumption of My Handicapped Son: Sweet Victory
When my son was born he was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis. Now neurofibromatosis, or NF, is a disease where tumors grow on the nerve endings. And every two years we have had to take EJ to MD Anderson in Houston to get full body scans and to go through a battery of tests to make sure he has no tumors in his brains, around his eyes, ears, body, etc.
And he has done really, really well with it. But I will never forget when I was sitting in a specialist’s office, this doctor was a brilliant man. He looked at Lisa and me and said, “You know what, your son will always be about three years behind developmentally. Your son will always be the last person picked on the team.
“Your son will never be able to run very fast; he will never be able to jump; he will never be able to skip. So I’m just going to tell you, that’s the deal with your son.”
To a parent those words are riveting, shocking. And we have never really talked to EJ about it in that detail, in that raw of a form like the doctors did. Yet, we have watched EJ grow. If you looked at EJ now, you would say, “He looks like a pretty average 16 year old. Very, very small but average.”
If he ran across the stage, the first four or five steps would look normal but after that his running totally breaks down. Again, developmentally he is about three years behind, and things just don’t fire off with your gross motor skills when you have NF.
So EJ went to school, and he began to do a little stuff in athletics. And when you’re a small kid, you don’t stand out that much as being that great or that bad. And last year he attended an awesome school here in this area, and he had never really played organized athletics on a junior high or high school level.
But there was a track team at the school and EJ came home and said, “Mom and dad, I want to try out for the track team. I want to try out because on the track team they don’t cut anybody. Everybody makes the team.” And I was thinking to myself, “Wow.”
I mean, I didn’t say this to him, but I thought, “If I was EJ, I would never go out for track. Track is all about running. You’re in front of people and your peers running. I just wouldn’t do it.” I said, “EJ, that’s great, man. Go for it.”
So several weeks went by, and we bought him some track cleats and outfits and everything. He announced to us that they were having a big track meet. All these schools were coming together, and it was going to be a big crowd.
He said, “Mom and dad, I’m going to be running the hundred meter dash.” Man, my heart went out to him. I was thinking, “EJ, you’re going to get so humiliated, so embarrassed.” I didn’t say it. I mean, as a parent I was thinking it, you know.
So the day of the race arrived, and Lisa and I showed up in this stadium. And there were at least a thousand people there. And there was heat after heat, and then I will never forget it; I looked to my right and saw EJ line up for his heat.
And these kids standing beside him were ripped. I mean, they outweighed him by 40 or 50 pounds, just incredible athletes. And here is EJ, at the time he weighed about 90 pounds. And when they called his name over the loud speaker, “In lane four, EJ Young,” Lisa and I looked at each other, and we just broke down.
We thought about all of the tests, we thought about neurofibromatosis, we thought about what the doctors had said about him. And then I just thought about being utterly and totally embarrassed and humiliated.
The gun sounded, “Boom!” And these other kids took off, and they were just flying like gazelles. And when they got to the 50 meter mark, I’m telling you EJ was maybe 15 meters. When they crossed the finish line he was like at the 50 meter point.
And you know something just welled up inside of me that I just was shocked. I mean, just the emotion and the love and the concern that we had for our son. It was something to behold.
Suddenly the crowd turned and looked at EJ, and the crowd began to cheer because he didn’t quit. He didn’t stop. He had his head held high and he ran an amazing race. And when he crossed the finish line, he congratulated the winners then walked across the infield with great confidence.
When we were taking him home he didn’t say one time, “I’m so slow.” He didn’t say one time, “I was so humiliated and embarrassed.” He didn’t say one time, “Man can you believe–” nothing.
You know what? EJ ran a great race. And I have thought about that situation for a long time because who ran the best race that day? Those incredible athletes or my son?
There’s no doubt about it, my son ran the best race. Because for him to run, for him to meet with all of the specialists and hear the words from the doctors, for him to have just that ability and courage to run was something to behold.
Life is not a sprint, is it? It’s a marathon. We need patience and endurance and commitment to run the race. Because God has a race, a unique race, for all of us. You might be fast, you might be slow, you might be this, and you might be that.
Run the race with endurance. And he was successful because he walked in the will of God. And that’s the kind of race that God has for you, and for you, and for you, and for you, and for me.