My Challenges are Harder than Yours

by Edward Henkler on February 24, 2015

I bet someone comes to mind immediately when you see the title of this post. It’s that person who seems to feel they’ve been singled out to receive the rawest deals on a routine basis. They’re also the person who tries to “one-up” you when you’re seeking a little sympathy. Their response when you complain of a bad day is to tell you how much more has gone wrong for them. This is a dangerous game. I believe there’s always someone stronger, faster, smarter, better-looking, or <pick-your-adjective> than you. I also think there’s someone out there who is struggling more (much, much more) than me. Believing you’ve been uniquely cursed is a statistically unlikely scenario.

I had a reminder of this attitude recently and it came from an unexpected source. I received a Google Alert about a young man who had overcome some astounding challenges. This young man was born visually impaired. As a teenager, he and his family relocated to the United States from Lebanon, with the hopes of a better education and advanced technology for the blind. The next excerpts are taken directly from the article:

“Living in a world with no images, <he> entered this country with the willingness to be independent and to create his own vision. Though entering high school with a limited English vocabulary and no sight, he graduated high school on time with a 4.0, which he considers one of his greatest achievements. Though surrounded by supportive teachers and family members, <he> taught himself to be as independent as possible. In his words, “I came from somewhere where I had to figure everything out on my own. If I had a problem, I found the solution myself.” He lives on the belief that being visually impaired is a special challenge, not a special need. After high school, college was his next challenge to conquer.”

Reaching for the stars

He is an incredible young man and would be even if his life didn’t have hardships. I especially liked this quote, “I will reach the stars that I cannot see. For me, I can reach something higher than where I’m standing, and I can do it without my vision.”

It’s a beautiful vision and I felt compelled to reach out to him. He graciously accepted my request for a conversation and that’s where things fell apart a bit. We (or perhaps I should say “he”) talked about 40 minutes. He told me everything he was doing which was a full slate of college and numerous volunteering activities. His aspirations are boundless and I believe and hope that he will achieve them. I finally managed to tell him about my enabling technology work and some of the wonderful people with whom I’m working. Other young people like him who were not defeated by blindness. That was when he told me that he was completely different. What they had accomplished was nice but no one was like him with no support network and living in a foreign country where he didn’t speak the language. It was an almost visceral reaction and truly surprised me.

He is an amazing young man and I truly hope he reaches those stars he can’t see. I also hope he drops his contention that no one has faced the challenges he’s overcome.

If you’ve inhabited this planet more than a few years, then you’ve undoubtedly met someone who feels their challenges are harder than anyone else. Hopefully that someone isn’t you!

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