By David Leatherman
My daughter, Debbie Milne, and Karissa Whitsell represented the United States in a Para-Olympics event for a specific disability category in Segovia, Spain, on June 14-17.
This Olympic event is bicycle racing on a tandem bike. Debbie was invited to participate as a pilot of the tandem bike. Karissa is legally blind.
However, her body is totally functional except she is visually impaired. As a pilot, Debbie controls the total function of the bike. She also provides her pedaling power. Karissa, on the back seat, provides pedaling power and advice with a big attitude to win, Karissa has a strong body, a strong desire to do her best and a wonderful spirit. They did extremely well.
During the event of the Para-Olympics, there were hundreds of participants with varying types and degrees of impairments that represent every country in the world.
The event was held in Spain in two villages near Segovia, which is north of Madrid.
The types and degree of disabilities varied. One man had only one arm and one leg and was amazingly good at racing a bike. There were many birth-related impairments, many amputations and lots of impairments from paralysis After being with the athletes, I have found a deep respect and love for them.
These people have taken their life situation and have made the most of it and become extremely talented athletes. They are good at what they do and have become powerful and successful.
I was overwhelmed by their achievements and now know that I would not stand a chance if I tried to compete with them in their events. I love it!
What a wonderful learning experience! God grants the opportunity of life each day, one day at a time, so make the most of it. I have learned through this experience that everybody has some degree of impairment or disability. Some disabilities involve body limbs and some involve the mind. Some people focus on what they can do with what they have, while others focus on what they do not have and do very little.
Those who focus on what they have seem to be more happy and excited about life than those who focus on what they do not have. My observation is this: those who do not use their resources have self-induced their own disability because of ingratitude and/or a poor attitude. They have become truly disabled in their mind because of poor attitude and no gratitude. Without an attitude of gratitude, they cannot realize the potential of resources that God has given to them. Many people are disabled by envy, hate and lack of giving to others and not forgiving.
A lack of forgiveness is a disabler. A lack of not realizing that God created each person for something special, no matter what your life circumstances are, is a disabler. This has been a learning experience for me. It was such a privilege to go to Spain with Debbie for this event. I will never forget this experience and its lesson.
After their return, Debbie and Karissa went to Augusta, Ga., to race for the USA Women’s title. They won, and they are now the Women’s National Champions. We are so thankful.
David Leatherman is a resident of Tupelo. Contact him at 122 Fern Ridge Road., Tupelo, MS 38802.