defined by adversity

Oh, the love of a great story! … even better when it’s non-fiction.

Note the ongoing tale of Shaquem Griffin, who college football fans know as the fastest linebacker in this year’s draft class — and non-football fans will appreciate learning all in life he’s overcome. And not just “overcome.” He has amazingly surpassed and achieved.

Note: Griffin has only one hand.

Because of that one hand, people are tempted to see Griffin differently. Isn’t that the truth? We see only singular traits in other people… a physical feature, an emotional bent, a political passion — and then we judge them on that. That becomes all we see… and it sadly affects all we think about them.

For Griffin, what he’s missing has the potential to affect more than what he offers and has.

He recently wrote to NFL general managers as they consider his worthiness to be drafted. In his excellent, insightful, and sometimes fairly raw account, Griffin inspires and teaches us all…

“Nobody was ever going to tell me that I didn’t belong on a football field. And nobody was ever going to tell me that I couldn’t be great.

I rode that mentality all the way through high school. I got picked on because of my hand and I had guys trash-talk me and stuff like that, but most of the time, I just ignored it. On the football field, I got off to kind of a slow start adjusting to the high school game, but eventually I grew to be a leader and a team captain…

I’m not going to get into an explanation of the condition I was born with that prevented the fingers of my left hand from fully developing. Or talk about the time when I was four years old and I tried to cut my own fingers off with a kitchen knife because I was in constant pain. Or about when I got my left hand amputated shortly after. That’s stuff you probably already know about anyway — and if you don’t, you can Google it. The story is out there. And it’s not some sob story or anything like that. It’s not even a sad story — at least not to me. It’s just … my story…

In our backyard, we had a couple of stacks of cinder blocks with a stick across the top, like a hurdle. And when we would run routes, we would have to jump over the hurdle and do other obstacles mid-route. Then my dad would throw us the ball, and he’d throw it hard, right at our chest. And every time we dropped it, he would say, ‘Nothing comes easy’…

I don’t define myself by my successes. I define myself by adversity, and how I’ve persevered…

I’ve had people doubt me my whole life, and I know that there are a lot of kids out there with various deformities or birth defects or whatever labels people want to put on them, and they’re going to be doubted, too. And I’m convinced that God has put me on this earth for a reason, and that reason is to show people that it doesn’t matter what anybody else says, because people are going to doubt you regardless. That’s a fact of life for everybody, but especially for those with birth defects or other so-called disabilities.

The important thing is that you don’t doubt yourself.

I feel like all the boys and girls out there with birth defects … we have our own little nation, and we’ve got to support each other, because everybody in this world deserves to show what they can do without anybody telling them they can’t.

I know there are some scouts and coaches — and even some of you GMs out there — who are probably doubting me, and that’s O.K. I get it. I only have one hand, and because of that, there have always been people who have questioned whether or not I could play this game.

If you’re one of those GMs who believes that I can play in the NFL, I just want to say thank you. I appreciate you, and I’m excited for the opportunity to play for you and prove you right. And if one you’re of those who is doubting me … well, I want to thank you, too. Because you’re what keeps me motivated every day to work hard and play even harder. Back when I was eight years old, I played because I loved the game. I still do. But now, I also play because I believe it’s my purpose. I know that it won’t come easy. Nothing comes easy. But I will fulfill that purpose. I have no doubt.”

I’m struck by Griffin’s articulateness, poise, confidence and humility, and his clear recognition of both God’s creation and his individual purpose.

So wise… and so good.