Monday, August 27, 2007

Unlikely Inspiration

Occasionally I am inspired by the most unlikely of people. Often they're people who, at first blush, we tend to ignore or dismiss outright (perhaps even laugh at and make fun of). I recently met one of these inspiring people.

Allow me to introduce you to Vinnie.

Vinnie (as some of you know) is a young man who, some evenings, shows up at the park where we take our children to expend the day's unspent energy. Vinnie makes the rounds most nights: he checks the sprinklers (for what-I can't say); he climbs up on the equipment and bangs around on it with his closed fist (my guess is that he's checking to make sure it remains secure); he crisscrosses the grassy area checking for puddles (when he finds one, he stops, cocks his head to one side, grimaces, then stomps through it-to determine it's depth, I'd guess); and he climbs underneath each and every park bench, inspecting the various nuts and bolts (to ensure they're secure is my bet).

The other night, we talked to him for a while, and he began to talk with us about his "career"-or, more aptly, his various careers. Because, you see, according to him, he not only works part time for the city parks and recreation department, he also works in maintenance for the local school district, in addition to working as a part-time firefighter! And-oh yeah: he also drives a school bus part time!

Now, I have to say, it was obvious right away that Vinnie wasn't telling the whole truth. First, he's obviously far too young to have graduated from the fire academy and worked as a firefighter for any measure of time (in fact, I just found out that he attends the local high school). Further, no human on the planet could possibly work the schedule that he must work in order to maintain these parallel careers! Yet he spoke so knowledgeably about each of them. When asked, he spouted off the ENTIRE chain of command at the fire department (including the impending retirement of the chief-a fact which I didn't know about, but later verified); he explained-in detail-how the fire department schedule works-and, I must say, it's very complex. I couldn't explain it to you now if my life depended on it; he talked to us about the various school sites he works at, the requisite duties there, and the various individuals responsible for each. He even told us the number of the bus that he drives.

I think now, though, I have the whole picture (although I'm filling in some sketchy areas). Vinnie has some sort of minor handicap. I'm not completely clear as to the nature of the handicap-but it's not really important.

He DOES in fact work, as a student volunteer, at the school (helping out with various odds and ends on the school ground). Apparently, he also volunteers at the City; the City maintenance workers allow him to take care of minor tasks. I'm not sure the nature of his interaction with the fire department.

But here's my point: I was going through tonight, trying to cheer myself (as I've had a particularly difficult couple of days), and I came across a previous post here on MyndFood (a quote of the week, sent to me by Katrina; thank you again Katrina-I needed the quote this evening). And I realized something. You see, we'd laughed Vinnie's exploits off as bean-dreams, as the wishful delusions of a dreamer. And, in a way, without realizing it, I think we'd done exactly what Mark Twain, with that quote, was warning us to steer clear of: that is, we'd belittled his ambitions.

And after today-after reading the quote again, and after the day that I've had, I came realize something: Vinnie might not be all that he says he is, and he might not do all that he says he does. But Vinnie definitely has strong, firm ambitions. Somewhere he's decided that whatever handicap he might have is irrelevant. And regardless what people say, despite any criticism he has to bear, in the face of the patronizing smirks-he has set his course, and he'll not be discouraged, nor will he be dissuaded. You can't help but admire that. And to belittle those ambitions would only serve to make me small.

And I've realized something else. If Vinnie, in the face of that adversity, can set his chin, and simply continue pushing toward his dream, who am I to feel sorry for myself? In spite of my perceived inadequacies, regardless what people say or think about me, even when there are those who say "you aren't capable; you can't do it," when they say your prior failures preclude you from any success-regardless all that, I'll continue climbing. I'll continue striving for my dream.

Because if I gave up now, I'd simply be taking another bitter walk down that long, dark hallway-to the room that holds broken dreams. And I'm not content to add another piece to that collection.

So thank you Vinnie for the unlikely inspiration. You've given me the courage (and proven a perfect picture of tenacity) to push on.


Anonymous said...

he sounds kind of like some kind of savant. the sentence is bad grammar major. :)

Anonymous said...

Think I'll take those dreams off the shelf and give them another "look see".
Very inspiring, thank you.