The Paralympic Games is an inspiring event. It has been a privilege to see the skills and dedication of the athletes, cyclists, swimmers and other competitors. Watching a young Chinese girl, who has no arms, winning the 100 metres race in a new world record time was amazing. The joy of those who have won medals, and of those who have not, has been great to see. Their sheer thrill at just taking part in the Paralympics has been evident for all to see.
The Paralympians are an example to us all as they have overcome serious physical disabilities and injuries. They have faced very big issues in their lives and have shown great courage to come through them as better people. This is an encouragement to us, as we face other kinds of challenges, to believe that we, too, can win through to find meaning and fulfilment.
Many years ago I read the amazing story of Joni Eareckson. On 30 July 1967 Joni, who was then 17, dived into Chesapeake Bay not realising that the water was shallow. She suffered a fracture of her spine and became a quadriplegic, paralysed from the shoulders down. In her autobiography, entitled “Joni, the unforgettable story of a young woman’s struggles against quadriplegia and depression,” she describes her struggle to come to terms with her injuries and the total change in her life and hopes. She was totally dependent on others and confined to a wheelchair. During two years of rehabilitation she experienced anger, depression, suicidal thoughts and struggles with her faith in Jesus.
With God’s help she came through all this. She learned to paint with a brush between her teeth and was able to sell her pictures. She has written more than 40 books, recorded music albums and starred in a film about her life. She has become a great advocate for disabled people. In 1982 she married Ken Tada and has recently come through surgery for breast cancer.
What shines through her life is that following her accident Joni has become a wonderful person. Instead of destroying her, she has grown through it. We wish that the accident had never happened but, in her severely disabled body, a beautiful person has blossomed. She has brought hope to many others facing big problems. Her life has not been easy, but she knows that one day all her struggles will be over and she will be with her Saviour in heaven for ever.