I will see your excuse and raise you a leg.
I teach Power Yoga and used to make really bad jokes in class during challenging poses like “your leg won’t fall off” or “your arm won’t fall off” and other such inappropriate things. I was teaching a bunch of jocks at the time and some off color humor was usually required to keep their attention. Anyway, one day my friend says she is going to bring her friend to class – and oh, by the way, he has one leg.
I think to myself, “I can teach him,” – closely followed by a conversation in my head about how I am completely unqualified to teach anyone, much less a veteran who lost his leg. Then I met him and he was so ready to give it a go – “this whole yoga thing” – and off we went. Little did I know it was causing a huge shift in my definition of giving your all, finding your edge or believing in yourself.
Jimmy is about 5’10” with a crazy red afro that makes his total height well over 7 feet tall. Well, 6’2” at least. He is missing his right leg just a short way below his hip. When he takes his prosthetic leg off and practices yoga, it is a blend of raw athleticism and a willingness to show up and try. With the help of the wall and a few blocks, Jimmy rocked his first yoga practice – sweating and laughing along with the rest of the class.
A few classes later, Jimmy was up in crow with his left knee balanced on the back of his left arm and all his weight squarely on his hands. He even jumped out of it to a push up position – with perfect form. A full backbend was a little trickier to work, but with a few adjustments, up he went.
He singularly demolished all the excuses of the people in class with him, along with my excuses of how I was unqualified to teach him. That was just the first day. Since that first day, many people have been overheard commenting about his inspiring presence. He continues to show everyone around him what it is like to live life with no excuses. He goes to school, working towards an education that will help him help other disabled veterans. He is a wrecking ball for any limitation we can dream up – be it physical or mental.
Jimmy served in the Army on active duty from 2005-2009. From 2009-2013 he was enlisted in the Army Reserves. He suffered a severe head injury in 2009, while serving in Iraq, when a roadside bomb exploded. He was unconscious for more than 60 minutes and evaluated at a field medical center but released immediately back to duty. Seven months later a brain scan revealed a tumor and other damage. He lost his leg in a motorcycle accident in 2012 while off duty. He received an Honorable Discharge from the Army Reserves in 2013. Undeterred by any of these injuries and circumstances, he went back to school, takes on physical activity with a “sure, why not?” kind of attitude and wants to start a support group for amputee veterans.
Currently, Jimmy is enrolled in school – working toward his degree in Business Management. His bigger vision includes also getting his Master’s degree in Prosthetics and Orthotics and blending the two – creating his own company or consulting for companies that help injured parties access the care and equipment they need to return to living their life.
Behind every courageous person is a life story that made them that way. A life that carved them up and made them able to deliver the message they need to deliver in the world. Courage doesn’t usually come from “easy.” Stories like his need to be told so that others can be encouraged to overcome obstacles and circumstances. We are never stuck. We are capable, resourceful individuals and the more we beat that drum, the better the world gets.
Jimmy is a testament to the strength of the human body, mind and spirit. He is more than a veteran, student, or yogi. He is unabashedly himself – and is an invitation for the rest of us to be the same way. So he will see your excuses and raise you a leg. He is an inspirational Army of One – staring challenges squarely in the eye, climbing his own personal mountain and standing as an invitation for everyone else to do the same.