Friday, June 01, 2012
The month began with a trip to Marion Indiana to help my friend David Kay open his new restaurant. He had asked me to come in early on their first day of server training to speak with his front of the house staff (those people who are serving the food and tending to their guests needs, as opposed to the kitchen staff...who would be considered back of the house staff) about disability awareness. After I had spent about an hour with his staff, David sent me to Lowes to get a light bulb. When I returned we went over a few of the finer points on the menu with his servers and then the first "training" table of guests arrived. (When a new restaurant opens there are usually a couple of nights in which friends, family, and other people lucky enough to get invitations come in to eat for free and be guinea pigs for the staff). I had one of the first dishes served and was amazed by the simple elegance of the presentation and the phenomenal tastes of every thing I ate! Even though the food was free, I gave David a dollar bill (which he had handed to me earlier in the day) to represent their first dollar. After almost a full month of business, K-Bistro is off to a fantastic start! I highly recommend that anyone within at least two hours of Marion make a special trip to try out their amazing food and friendly atmosphere!
Early in the month I had a business meeting at the Sheraton, which is located at Keystone at the Crossing in Indianapolis. I had the pleasure of running into Matt Holland, who is an old colleague from my days at the Marriott Downtown. We spent a few minutes catching up and after my meeting he took the time to show me some of the newly renovated/updated accessible rooms at his hotel. I was surprised, and pleased, to see some features, like automatic curtains, that I had never seen in an accessible room before. They even had a room permanently set up for people who are deaf, that was completely different from the more common accessible rooms that are usually designed for people with mobility impairments.
Matt was conducting an interview with a potential management candidate when my meeting wrapped up. Both the interview, and my meeting took place in their restaurant, so before I left I politely interrupted the interview (which I had thought was just a group of managers having lunch or else I wouldn't have stepped in) to ask if Matt still wanted me to hang out for the tour. The candidate he was interviewing looked up at me and said "You spoke to my 312 class at Purdue a few weeks ago, I loved your presentation!" What a pleasant surprise to meet someone who had so recently been in my audience. Matt looked at me and said "Wow, you really are becoming a celebrity!"
After the tour, Matt and I sat in their Concierge Lounge and reminisced over our time working together while also catching up on the last several years. The following week, he and his wife Sarah (also a former colleague from the Marriott Downtown) joined me for lunch at the Legend in Irvington. The Legend, which is a fantastic restaurant, was hosting a third party fund raiser for accessABILITY, inc. Matt and Sarah have recently been blessed with twins, and this was a rare treat for the two of them to get out without the kids. It was also a rare treat for me to catch up with two of the people who made my last year at the Marriott bearable!
As the chair of accessABILITY's fund development and marketing committee, I couldn't get away with just one meal at the Legend that day (which is fine because their menu is. I returned for dinner that night with Mom, Dad, Sarah (my Sister), and Madeline(my Niece). During both Lunch and Dinner I saw many of my friends, neighbors, and business acquaintances enjoying the food and service. I cannot express how grateful I am for all of the support that everyone has given to the non-profit!
The month continued to fly by as my days filled with meetings and speaking engagements, all leading up to Memorial Day weekend, which I spent in Chicago with my friends Jim and Jenny Goodman and their three and a half year old, Anna. We had a relaxing time, mostly spent at their house just being with each other, as opposed to running around the city trying to get to every tourist attraction. Due to issues with the flights I got in much later than intended on the first night. We went out for a nice dinner on my second night there and had a great barbecue the following night. The best part of the trip was reading stories to their daughter, something I probably wouldn't have been able to do if we had spent each day dragging her around the city!
I returned home from Chicago on Sunday afternoon, which meant that I would still be able to enjoy Memorial Day with my family. With temperatures in the mid to upper 90's, Memorial Day was the hottest day of the year so far, and when I arrived at Mom and Dad's house I found Sarah and Madeline relaxing outside on the deck. My Dad's big project for the summer has been resurfacing their deck and also building a very attractive pergola, which provides a great deal of shade. While it was relaxing outside, it was also very hot, so I was very pleased when Mom and Dad called us inside for dinner!
On the Sunday before I left for Chicago I received a call from a member of our congregation at North United Methodist. His daughter, who is in 5th grade at a school in Fishers, IN was studying prosthetics in her science class. (Yes, you read that right, 5th grade students are/were studying bio-engineering)! The man's daughter wanted to know if it would be ok to give her Teacher my contact info. Of course I said yes.
The Teacher called me the next day and we had a great conversation about the best way to present my story to her students. Due to the timing of the upcoming holiday (Memorial Day) and the end of the school year, we had to squeeze the presentation in on Thursday before my flight to Chicago. The students were a wonderful audience and I was floored by the maturity of many of their questions (more on that in a minute). I love speaking to students, no matter what age, but this particular audience had a special place in my heart, as one of the students in the audience just happened to be a good friend of Madeline's, and also the daughter of one of Sarah's (my Sister's) best friends. When I asked if she remembered when my accident happened, she looked at me and said"It was either the day before, or the day after, my birthday". She was absolutely right on the timing, and a great helper!
I spoke for about 20 minutes, which is about 5 to 10 minutes longer than I had intended, and the students kept me busy with questions for the rest of the hour. As many of the students put their hands in the air to get my attention I scanned the room for the student who was being the most patient. I called on a young lady who looked at me and asked "You've obviously gotten past the physical pain, but how do you deal with the emotional pain, does it ever go away?"
As I said, I was floored by the maturity of many of their questions, but this one took the cake! I've been speaking to various groups, of all age ranges, about the accident and what came out of it's ashes for a little over six years now. Out of those groups, the most consistent audience has been Elementary & Intermediate school students. None have ever asked about how I deal with the emotional pain. I thought about the question for a moment and then answered "As you go through life you will be faced with challenges that will at times seem unbearable. I've been massively depressed, even suicidal, but as you work through each challenge, you have to also deal with the emotional pain caused by your challenges so that you don't get stuck in a negative place, you need to then look back on those challenges and think about what you have learned and leave the negative part of the lesson/challenge in the past. I have learned that life is a gift, no matter how difficult things seem there is always hope that it will get better and you have to work through your problems to make that hope a reality. It is my hope for all of you that when you find yourself dealing with something you think you can't handle, that you will remember my story and tell yourself: if he can deal with losing his legs and learning how to walk again, and still be happy, then I can get through this too."
Try, try, again!
"It was worth the wait. Especially hearing about the 5th grade class. These young people are thinking beyond themselves; hope they can keep that spirit."
Keep writing, even if it is at midnight on the last day of the month :)