When I was a kid, I had dreams. I read Gerald Durrell books and I was going to own my own animal hospital to save all wildlife that other people shunned. I had a favourite book on ballet and I was going to be the best member of the corps de ballet ever (not) seen, flowing immaculately from one line of dance to the other, invisible in my alignment. I read the Anne of Green Gables series, the Narnia series, and I was going to be the best teacher in the world, helping spirits to shine out and bright whoever they were. I read the Little Women series and I was going to be a writer, maybe a journalist, bring the world in all its technicolour to those who couldn’t get there by themselves.
To each dream, I had a ladder up which I would climb and spend hours gazing over the new land, my future, and imagine what it held. And bit by bit, as I grew up, the rungs snapped and broke, or plain disappeared. ‘Can’t’ and ‘shouldn’t’ and ‘don’t’s chipped them into sawdust until the very last one kicked me into defiance and reconstruction mode.
Today, I listened to a man and heard a tale which must be known the world out. The man was once a boy and the boy had a dream. He too climbed his ladder to see what he could see, for him, as a mighty jet pilot. His rungs came undone at the age of 10 with a diagnosis of Type A Diabetes, fractured under the weight of ‘can’t’ and ‘don’t’s. The ladder’s demise and inability to carry him up were mourned for over 5 years.
Today, the man stood in front of us and told us how he had slowly reconstructed another ladder. A seemingly more reliable ladder which had thus been fortified by support, encouragement and faith. He stood before us as a Type A Diabetic professional road and mountain cyclist who, for the last five years, has raced in 5 continents in short and endurance races. He stood in front of us as the only one to have completed a 1300km race across Northern Australia and also hit the podium even when others tried to unpick the ladder before the starting line.
Today, the man was asked what he would say back to the little boy that he was and the parents that were when he heard the diagnosis and he said: I tell all kids that they are heroes so that’s what I would tell them too. He stood in front of us and had no idea that he was a hero to us too.
Today, I was reminded of two things. What my ladders are and how people around us are rungs. We are influencers and we are supporters and what we help others construct or what we choose to undermine are within our control. How you construct your own ladder and who you trust to be rungs is also under your control. Most of us are lucky. We already have rungs of healthy mind and/or healthy body. We have a head start. In a world which is obsessed with controlling what we can’t do, we forget something crucial, we may call something ‘beyond our wildest dreams’ but, the truth is, if we can imagine it, it’s probably within our capabilities if we build hard enough. We just have to start climbing.
I want to climb ladders and I want to be a rock-solid rung. Not just for the kids but for the kids in all of us who are just waiting to climb once again. And I can’t wait to hear about what they all see.