This is Ron with your motivational message:
As I sit painting a mother hen and her chicks so tenderly tucked underneath her feathers, I’m inspired by their personalities even as I’m creating them myself. Each color chick is different. Unique. Has its own characteristics.
Earlier this month, I had the privilege to share my story and inspiration with 300 young men between the ages of 13-18 years old who had been incarcerated. They were now in a facility of last chances, Ridge View Academy in Colorado.
Sitting there alone in a big, open empty room I rehearsed in my mind the speech I was about to give. I asked myself “why do I feel nervous?”. These young men are no different than my average school assembly, besides that they were caught doing crimes that many of us have escaped from being held responsible for, including myself. I was reminded that as humans we all long for the same thing. Love, acceptance, finding our place and feeling like our life has a purpose.
As the room began to fill, 600 eyes looking straight at me I could feel that they were just as uneasy with me as I was with them. How can I cross this bridge and become the voice that they needed to hear? Words that they might understand.
I started my speech by describing my dream. I went to sleep last night and remember that I was driving this car super-fast on an open road, wide open windows and stereo blaring. I parked and jumping into a lake, I began swimming to the dock across it. Diving into the water. I remember there was a tree swing. I swung myself off and launched my body into the water. Coming above the water I popped up, opened my eyes and realized that I could no longer swim, run, drive my car. My body is numb. It’s paralyzed. I cannot move a muscle below my neck. And I lay in my bed until someone arrives to put my limp body in my chair. It’s like I’m a prisoner within myself. Waking up from these dreams I find myself paralyzed once again. With no parole. No apparent way out. No hope of being set free. I’ve been confined as you are just in a different way for 30 years.
And that’s the only way that I can try to understand your situation. There is no cure at this point for central nervous system repair. The future as far as me walking again is grim.
But you my friend, I said. You have the choice today to set yourself free. You’re not here on a life sentence you’ve made some unwise choices and for any of you to go back to your wheelchair once you’re set free from this place would sound ridiculous if I told you that there was a way for me to get out of my chair, but I wanted to stay confined.
As I felt each soul open and saw the facial expressions, I realized I had made a heart to heart connection. To my astonishment, they listened without barely a movement for one hour. When they were released, they didn’t get up and leave they stuck around and asked questions.
A couple of them even spoke out loud in front of their peers. One said that he was truly grateful that I came and laid it out bare. And that he was going to get over feeling sorry for himself. Stop talking like life isn’t fair. Life is sometimes what you make it and even though we don’t have control and maybe someone else brushes our teeth or combs our hair we are the master of our attitude. And can choose to be positive. Overcome our limitations. Focus on the “I Cans” instead of the saying I can’t. For me, I’ve realized the importance to have God in my life.
One young man was totally moved by my artwork for he himself was an artist. He couldn’t believe I was involved with a world organization of mouth and foot painters. He asked if I was like the only one, but after I told him I was involved in the world foundation of Mouth Foot Painters Association and that there is 800+ of us he got inspired to kick his art up a notch.
The hour and a half I spent with these young people was one of the more powerful experiences of my whole life. It felt real. These guys weren’t putting on a show. They all wore the same grubs. They all ate the same food. They all had zero money. I left them with a message of hope. And it was obviously well received. And that’s all it takes is a change in your mind to begin a transformation in your life.
As I’m looking at these chicks run around the yard and seeing their different personalities, I’m reminded how different we all are. Unique in size, color, and personality.
Spring is coming. New life appears. Flowers begin to bloom. Trees bud. The sun is shining, and I pray your hearts are warmed as you are reminded of how unique and special you are. And no matter what the past circumstances or your phycological bars are we’re all prisoners in our own limitations. What’s your emotional confinement? All of these are excuses. Don’t allow your limitations, your metal wheelchairs, your psychological wheelchairs, whatever is confining you to keep you there. You are bigger than your problems.
For these chicks their mother is there to protect them, teach them, guide them so they can survive on their own. As my experience with the young men reminds me sometimes, we don’t get that upbringing that provides the tools. Maybe there is someone you can minister to today with a positive word or to even full on mentor. Sometimes that is all another human might need. It takes a community.
I wanted to send a big thank you to Suzi Nelson for opening the doors up for me to speak at Ridge View Academy. And, to Evy Schott and Tim Butler for making it all happen. I hope to return to Colorado in the future. If anyone would like to reach out to set up a speaking engagement in Colorado or elsewhere, please feel free to contact us.
To your inspirations,