A Long Walk With Polio

At Warm Springs

I am quite sure that in 1960 there was a perfectly adequate selection of crippling childhood diseases for me to choose from. Current, up to date diseases with support groups, and new treatments, and medical research being conducted about them. Apparently, none of them had the right feel to me because I held out for a virus that didn’t really exist anymore. It had been virtually eliminated from this country, close to ten years earlier. There was only a 1 in 7 million chance of me getting it, but sure enough;…I had Polio.

  I was eighteen months old when Polio struck. The only part of my body that wasn’t effected by the attack was my right arm and shoulder. Everything else took a hit. A weakened and diminished left side. No use of my left leg, and only about ten percent use of my right one. If I was going to “walk”, it would have to be with heavy metal, full-length crutches and braces.

  If you are thinking that a situation like that would mean a lifetime of impossible, mixed in with pretty much every physical and mental challenge you can think of, and then some;…you would be right. But there was another part of the story that was quite unexpected and fascinating (to me anyway). A part of the story that would prove to have the greatest affect, the most dominant affect of Polio on my life.

  I’m talking about the impact that Polio would have on my soul.

  With Polio, the physical things were hard, but the heart of her story had infinitely more to do with the mind and soul. It’s true that virtually everywhere I would go for the rest of my life, would be a physical challenge. School, work, church, stores, places with buildings, places without, and anywhere in between, had its own unique degree of difficulty. It’s also true, however, that in every one of those schools, and every one of those jobs, every church and store, every place with a building, every place without, and every place in between;…there were people being very much affected by it all. 

  People asked me daily, ” What’s wrong with you? “, or ” What happened to you? “. It wasn’t anything to be mad about. It was a valid question. But it did serve as a constant reminder that something was wrong with me. I was a broken thing, a flawed thing. I was not what God intended.

  That would be plenty enough to make a person jump off of a bridge, if not for the counterbalance. The profound impact it makes on others.

  I take no credit for it. I find it humbling in fact, but it is undeniable that people are affected. They are touched or inspired. They are challenged or shaken. They find themselves asking questions about life, and God, and fairness, and faith. They make vows and promises. They sometimes rise from a low place in there lives, or come down from a high one. They give, they pray, they search, and ponder. They consider things they never thought of before. It exposes hidden strengths in people, and sometimes hidden weaknesses. It moves and changes them in ways that I have no idea about;…..and all for no more complicated a reason than they encountered a little crippled boy that day.

  So, with absolutely no effort on my part whatsoever, and simply existing in my usual “broken & flawed” state of being;…….God would nurture another’s soul. He would heal a wound, or comfort a heart. And all right there in front of me.

  How does that happen? How does a broken boy, and a mended soul inhabit the same space and time? Both just existing away, right on top of each other.

  Polio, will be how God tells me the story of me.


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