By Ronale Tucker Rhodes, MS
Mahatma Gandhi, the famous 20th century Indian civil rights leader, said: “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” While Gandhi’s obstacles in his political quest for equal treatment for all people in India were not like those affecting people with physical ailments, he was a living example that overcoming adversity is possible if we believe in ourselves and we persevere to accomplish what we desire - despite any obstacles, even physical ones, that may stand in our way.
But living examples don’t always come in the form of famous figures like Gandhi. Instead, many times, they are people who are close to us; sometimes they are even ourselves. I learned about the power of indomitable will from my mother.
My mother was born profoundly deaf (meaning she has no hearing at all), but it wasn’t until she was 5 years old that her deafness was discovered; my grandparents merely thought she was difficult. At that point, they decided that she would not be raised differently than a hearing child, and she was enrolled in public school. While growing up, she was forced into difficult situations that were almost impossible for her to perform, but she was expected to do just that. People didn’t understand her handicap, and instead thought her to be stubborn, rude or thoughtless.
By the time she was an adult, she had will and determination that could be matched by few. She could speak as well as a hearing person, lip-read with an astonishing degree of accuracy, play the piano, dance and sing. She then raised three children, put herself through law school, became editor-in-chief of the law review, graduated at the top of her class, clerked for a Court of Appeals judge, became a successful litigation partner in a prestigious Arizona law firm, and became a tenured professor at the Arizona State University Law School and a nationally recognized scholar and expert on matters of disability law.
None of her life’s accomplishments have come without a great deal of heartache, hardship and humility. But, throughout life, she has persevered to accomplish what she has desired. She later wrote a book about it, titled The Feel of Silence. And, hard as it may be to believe, she even has the ability to laugh about some of the things that have happened as a result of her deafness, like the times when:
• she has vacuumed entire rooms without the vacuum plugged in;
• she waited in line at the drive-through dry cleaner while customers and
employees angrily eyed her, not realizing she was leaning on the horn
the entire time;
• she was pulled over and ticketed by a policeman for not pulling over
to the right for a passing fire truck because I, her daughter, had the
radio blaring and couldn’t hear it to tell her;
• and the list goes on.
I’ve yet to be faced with any serious illness or handicap. But, I know that if and when I am, I will have the determination and indomitable will to overcome it and, I hope, to laugh at it - because I’ve seen firsthand how it can be done. I also know from the postings on Facebook and this blog site that many in the IG Living community share that tenacity. What’s your story, and who is your example?