I was getting into a cab a few weeks ago; it’s not a regular occurrence for me, I’m more of a straphanger on the subway kind of guy. I get into the cab and give directions to where I am going. The cab driver says no problem and we have a few pleasantries. After a few moments he says, “My friend, can I ask you a question?” I know where this is going; I have been asked if I could be asked a question hundreds of times. I nod my head and say, “Sure, go ahead.”
“What happened to your hand?”
“I was born without it” I reply.
“I see,” says the driver. He takes a few moments, looks at me through the mirror. “But you are happy, right?”
The question caught me off guard. I thought quickly about my day; so far it had been pretty good. “Yeah, I’m pretty happy.” And that was it. I went back to checking emails on my phone and the cab driver went back to dealing with the chaos of midtown Manhattan.
Later that day I thought back to that cab driver, “wait, he meant am I happy despite missing my hand.” His question wasn’t about happiness in the present moment; it was about happiness in spite of a perceived challenge. I get that a lot. Actually, most of my friends with disabilities get that a lot. How can you be happy when you have this very specific physical difference?
In both my speaking and theatrical presentations, I talk about the long journey in my life to learn that my hand is not the biggest challenge in my life, it is a challenge but it is just one of the many differences that make me who I am. I like to quote my hero Jim Abbott, who was also born without his right hand, he says, “Some days my hand means everything in the world and some days it means nothing at all.”
All of us face challenges and difficult circumstances but happiness can come despite what we are facing. Happiness, I believe, is not a destination but part of the journey. Life is a roller coaster, up and down and upside down. It is unfair and can be ruthless. Through the turmoil and muck are lessons and if we can stop, take a breath and hold steady, we can remind ourselves that we are moving forward and there is light ahead. As Viktor Frankl says, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
My greatest challenge is not my hand; it is the daily grind of life and the uncertainty around the corner. I can choose happiness because I get up every day and know I am moving forward.