Heather Brooks earned both her undergraduate
and graduate degrees from Portland State
University. She lives and writes in the Rose City,
while completing an internship at Incight.
At an African airport, a little guy gets bored waiting for his luggage at baggage claim. So he convinces his travelling companion to lift him onto the luggage carousel. Off he goes! By this time, a lot of other passengers are watching the tiny figure in the sunglasses, wondering if he is a statue, a real person, or “the world’s most handsome duffel.”
He reaches the door to the baggage room at the end of the terminal without incident, but with the smiles, laughter, and shouts of “God bless you!” of the baggage handlers.
No, he is not a child.
Nor does he have dwarfism.
He is Nick Vujicic—pronounced Voy-a-chich– a 29-year-old Australian gentleman who stands three feet, three inches tall, and weighs 74 pounds, because he was born without arms or legs.
And if anyone knows how to have fun, it’s Nick.
He surfs. He swims. He fishes. He golfs. He plays soccer, the drums, and keyboard. He rides horses. Most recently, he’s taken up skydiving. He’s figured out how to do these things independently,
He discusses this concept of ridiculous fun in his book Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life. Nick bases this concept his belief that “every living, breathing person on the planet should be committed to doing something ridiculous at least once a day.” With that in mind he’s created what he calls “the Ridiculous Rules.” There are five of these rules, and they are guidelines for having, as Nick says, “ridiculous fun.” To paraphrase, the rules are as follows:
1. Allow a trial period. If it’s a long-term situation or commitment, such as a relationship, or a new color of paint for the living room, try a little bit temporarily, to see if your new venture is a good fit for you.
2. Do your homework. Gather as much information as you can about what you want to do. Of course you can take risks, but it’s always wise to know what you don’t know about your new endeavor. See item five for more details.
3. Consider the timing. Sometimes it simply is not the right time to take a risk. When N ick was 12, his family moved to California from Australia, to take advantage of the medical treatments available there for his condition. Four months later, they moved back. His parents hadn’t been able to find jobs or affordable housing. It wasn’t the right time. Nick loved California, though, and after he graduated college, he moved back there, and there he lives to this day. When he moved the second time, he had made all necessary arrangements, and the transition was successful.
4. Accept feedback. Ask for advice about your undertaking from those you trust.
5. Be prepared for anything. Every action has consequences, many of which are unforeseen. Always have an alternate plan should your primary vision fail.
Nick suggests that play and fun are necessary to good mental health. He cites a study of several hundred serial killers. Almost none of the subjects had regular play periods as children. Play is vital to guard against depression. The author of the study advises that work and play should be combined; we shouldn’t just set aside time for leisure.
Do you ever do this? If you’ve ever attended a business meeting over lunch, dinner, or coffee, you have.
I do too, although until I read about it in Nick’s book, I wasn’t aware of doing it. I volunteer for our local classical radio station. I hold a Masters in writing with an emphasis in editing. I edited the content of their entire website. One year, for my birthday, I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do than volunteer at the station for an afternoon.
The staff thought I was crazy to work for free on my birthday, but I did just that. I provided them a service they needed while listening for four hours to music I loved. I still count that among the most wonderfully, ridiculously fun afternoons of my life!
Combining work and play is a regular habit with Nick. He travels the world as a motivational speaker, and his ride on the luggage carousel occurred on a speaking trip.
Even during his presentations, Nick has fun. He demonstrates how he answers a landline telephone. Though legless, he has a partly formed left foot. With the two toes on it, he lifts the receiver. Then he kicks upward, tossing the receiver onto his shoulder and securing it between his ear and shoulder.
The phone isn’t the only thing he kicks around on stage. A keen soccer player, Nick will select a member of the audience and ask him or her to stand halfway across the room, and catch a soccer ball that he kicks to them. For each presentation, he has his caregiver or caregivers place him on a table so that he is readily visible. He walks to the table’s edge, and balances there, very much to the worry of his listeners, who are usually afraid he’ll topple off!
He never does.
No matter how he demonstrates it, Nick is a living example of our belief here at Incight, that having fun is a form of the independence we seek to foster among members of the disabled community. For more about Nick, his story, or his speaking engagements, read his book, or visit his Web site at www.lifewithoutlimbs.org.