What You See Is What You Get

November 17, 2008
My friend Krishel and I at Prom

My friend Krishel and I at Prom

My sophomore year in high school the choir group I was in embarked on the annual “choir trip.” We were going to Salt Lake City, Utah. I grew up in Boise, Idaho and at the time Salt Lake was the big city and quite the adventure. Everyone in the choir was excited for the trip. I had not been home from the hospital for very long and therefore did not yet have my power chair or accessible van. So, in order for me to go I would need a little help.

I wouldn’t be able take the bus with the rest of the choir so first, I needed a ride. I couldn’t do my own care so I needed someone to go along and help me get up and ready for the day. Also, because that would be in my manual wheelchair I needed someone willing to push me from place to place.

My mom was dedicated to keeping me involved and therefore offered to take care of the ride and my care. There was a caveat however. She knew the kind of hotel our choir budget would put us in and said that if she was going to go she and I would be staying somewhere nicer.

With my first two requirements taken care of, I spoke to my friends in the group and they agreed not only to push me from place to place but to also take me to and from the hotel my mom and I would stay in to the hotel the choir would be in. With all my needs taken care of, I was good to go.

The trip finally arrived, and my mom and I followed the bus down to Salt Lake City. We checked into the Marriott as the choir checked into their motel. As soon as everyone was settled, my friends walked down a few blocks to take me to where they were staying. True to most trips of this kind we hung out eating pizza, talking and laughing. It became time for me to return to my hotel and my friend Krishel offered to take me back.

On our way we came to a crosswalk. We waited for the lights turn green and when it did Krishel began to push me across the street. About halfway across a man in a power wheelchair passed us going the opposite direction. Once he was out of earshot, she leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Can you imagine what that would be like to be in a wheelchair?” I chuckled and told her that I felt like I probably could. We both had a pretty good laugh about it as she pushed me the rest of the way to my hotel.

Later, laying in my bed in the Marriott I took a minute to consider what had just happened. There we were crossing the street, Krishel’s hands were on my chair pushing me across and still she forgot that I was in a wheelchair.

She saw me. She saw Jason. She didn’t see the wheelchair, or quadriplegic. She simply saw her friend.

My life has been richly blessed by people like Krishel and I have been better for it. They say “what you see is what you get” and I have found that to be true. My days have been filled with people who saw me and not my chair and because of those people and their view that’s exactly what they’ve gotten; me and not my chair. I have little doubt that I have reached higher goals, achieved more, become more and overcome obstacles I otherwise would not have because of what others have seen in me.

Think about that the next time you interact with someone the little different than yourself, a little different than the norm. Much of what what you get from them will come from what you see in them. A little vision pointed in the right direction will allow you to see the incredible in others, while helping them accomplish it themselves.


Shun Fujimoto

October 18, 2008
Shun Fujimoto after the Montreal Games

Shun Fujimoto after the Montreal Games

The 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada was host to one of the greatest acts of courage in Olympic history. The Japanese team arrived with high hopes for Olympic gold. They knew however that in order to achieve this lofty goal they would have to win out over the incredibly strong Russian team.

As competition began Shun Fujimoto, a member of that Japanese team, found himself up against unthinkable decision. During his floor exercise, he’d broken his leg. He now had to choose whether he would continue, working to help his teammates succeed, or, give up and hope for the best. Obviously having had this kind of injury no one would question his lack of desire to move on.

But,he did move on.  He reasoned that his teammates would need every point he could contribute. So, without telling anyone, the judges, his teamates, or even his coach, Shun moved on to the next apparatus; the pommel horse. He did well in this event, scoring a 9.5 out of a maximum 10 points. As difficult and daunting as this task was he knew that it would pale in comparison to what lie ahead.

The apparatus that followed was the rings. Shun knew that success in this event would be largely dictated by his ability to successfully complete the high-flying dismount. The level of concentration this challenge would require would be an entirely different matter altogether. But, true to form and thinking of the success of the team he assumed his position and began his routine.

Shun flew around the rings in near perfection. His performance was almost flawless. But as he moved through his routine he knew that in order to get the score required he would have to nail his dismount, a triple somersault with a twist.

Tears filled his eyes as Shun’s leg absorbed the force from his 136 pound body hitting the mat. His leg gave way just a bit, and gritting his teeth he threw his arms in the air.

He tore ligaments in his leg, dislocated his knee and had to withdraw from the rest of the events, but, in the end, the judges awarded him a 9.7, the highest score of his career. The Japanese team was awarded the gold and they beat the Russians by .4 points (the smallest margin of victory in the history of the Olympics). Everyone on the team knew that without Shun’s courage this victory would never have been achieved.

Later, reporters asked Shun about his experience. He replied;

“It brought tears to my eyes. But now I have a gold medal, and the pain is gone.”

In our lives there are surely times when we have to pull together all the courage that we can muster, and move forward. Often, we feel injured, or less than a whole, and many times are “teams” success relies on our ability to complete the tasks that are ours.

We will do better and more easily find the wherewithal to succeed if we will remember Shun’s words and example. For, no matter how difficult our struggle is today as we work towards our goals with dedication and resolve, then someday like Shun we may be able to say;

“[The adversities in my life] brought tears to my eyes. But, now I have [reached my goals] and the pain is gone.”


Below you can find a short video on Shun

Removing The Strap

October 8, 2008

After breaking my neck, of all the countless things I had to learn to do again keeping my balance was far and away one of the most difficult. From the moment I was off the respirator and healthy enough to be out of the bed my therapists worked every day to help me regain my balance. This may not seem like a difficult thing to acquire, but without the assistance of your abdominal muscles to keep you upright, or the help of the muscles around your trunk to keep you steady, it took hours and hours of work.

From the very first day I was in a wheelchair I had a Velcro strap around my chest to keep me from falling on the ground–and least that’s the idea. At first, I leaned on my strap all the time. But after a while, I only used it from time to time. By the time I left the hospital, I had gotten to the point where I was fairly secure in my balance. Still, the ground looked fairly ominous and wanting to keep my face as far as I could from the concrete, I kept the strap.

Months later, after I had been home for some time, my mom was in my room helping me get ready for church. It felt like just a regular Sunday like any other Sunday. Little did I know that this particular Sunday would be one I would never forget.

Everything was going normal, my mom helped me put on my pants, sat me in my chair, buttoned up my white shirt, tied my tie, and slid my sport coat on. Then, acting as though it was something we did every day, she removed my strap. I proceeded to inform her that that wasn’t going to work. I tried to explain that I needed to strap and that without it I would fall out of my chair, and although some might find it entertaining to watch, the idea horrified me.

She then told me that while we were in the hospital one of the therapists told her that she felt that I could get to the point where I would no longer need the strap to keep my balance. My mom then informed me that I had in fact reach that point (whether I knew it or not.) She told me she believed in me and was sure that I’d be just fine.

I on the other hand was positive that she was wrong. But, the strap was gone and it was obvious that I was going to church sans strap unless I could convince one of my brothers or sister to disobey my mother’s edict, and I was pretty sure that that wasn’t going to happen.

I was furious. How could she do this to me. “Did she want me to fall?” I wondered. But, angry or not, I was loaded in the car and we headed to church. Glaring at my mom during the entire meeting I concentrated on sitting up. As I worked to keep myself upright I silently waited for the moment when my efforts would fail and I would fall. Then, I could prove to my mother that I was right and she was wrong.

However, contrary to my belief I made it through the meetings sitting up the whole time. Now, I was really scared. This was a big problem. For, if I made it home without incident, I would never see my strap again.

As the meeting ended and my mother pushed me out the chapel doors. Heading to the van I knew that it was now or never. I saw a crack in the sidewalk and knew that this was my chance. My front wheels hit the crack and as the chair jostled just a bit, I threw myself out of my chair. My upper body slammed against the concrete pinning my legs underneath my torso. My mother came from behind my chair to help me get off the ground and as she did I repeatedly cried, “See, I was right. I told you I need my strap.”

Once I was safely back in my chair, my mom looked me in the eye, smiled, and said, “You may fall a few times but eventually you’ll get it figured out.” Fuming, I understood that my strap was gone, and that all falling out of my chair was going to get me was a concussion.

In the end, my mother was right. I sit up today in my wheelchair without a cumbersome strap because my mom saw my true potential, and was willing to do whatever it took so that I could see it as well. In my life today I work hard to see past the “straps” in my life that limit my ability to see all that I can become. I try every day to look at my life through the eyes of my loving mother that I might see all that I can be.

Now that I am older, I can only imagine how difficult it was for her to remove my strap and see me fall. It would have been so easy for her to just give me my strap. Had she done so however, I would have been safe in the knowledge that I would never fall, yet always wondering what more I could have been.

Each of us have straps that we allow to stay in our lives and keep us from reaching our full potential. We have to take heart from my mother’s courage and remove the straps that keep us down so that we can find our own balance. Odds are good that we will fall. But those scrapes will heal and in the quest to unlock “The Champion Inside,” our lives will become full of opportunity as we realize and utilize all that we are and all that we can be.

All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother. — Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)