The Need for Speed

The Need for Speed

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be The Best You Can Be

The Need for Speed

The ideal attitude is to be physically loose and mentally tight.

~Arthur Ashe

Every year, our youth group takes a three-day ski trip to White Face Mountain in Lake Placid, New York. But 2006 was special because Rebekah was old enough to attend the trip.

At age twelve, Rebekah has lived more in a lifetime than most. Born prematurely and with cerebral palsy, she has survived many surgeries, and also a battle with leukemia that was finally vanquished by a bone-marrow transplant. Embodied within this child are a strong will and a positive attitude. Somewhere along the way, she captured my spirit.

I invited Rebekah to attend the ski trip.

At first, her parents refused permission. I cannot even begin to imagine the internal struggle for them. This would be the first time that their daughter would be so far away from them. Rebekah’s care would be in the hands of other people. I assured them that I would be there. I researched and talked to the adaptive ski program administrators at White Face Mountain. I arranged for an accessible room. And, finally, seeing Rebekah’s excitement and insistence, they gave in.

I didn’t anticipate the battles that would arise from other sources. Other chaperones for the trip thought I was crazy for inviting her. Her parents were criticized for letting her go. Her grandparents had long discussions with me about all of her needs and how much work she can be. Underneath it all, I sensed a deep, pervasive fear from everyone around me. Her family feared letting her go. The rest feared caring for a child with a disability who used a wheelchair.

All I could see was a young girl, desperately wanting to do something adventurous and on her own. I felt anger and frustration. Why should Rebekah be limited by her body? Why should she be limited by others afraid to take care of her? Why couldn’t anybody else see that she needed this?

Rebekah came anyway, and I knew her parents were walking on pins and needles back home, almost sick with worry.

I will never forget the look on Rebekah’s face when Donald Dew, the adaptive ski instructor, first strapped her into a specially made bi-ski. She glowed with excitement and adventure! Donald was remarkably prepared. He had specially tailored lesson plans for skiers with cerebral palsy.

Rebekah took off! We all stood in amazement as Donald taught her how to manipulate the bi-ski. Later, he told me that she had accomplished in two hours what he had hoped she would accomplish in three days. She was a natural at skiing.

In the middle of the first lesson, Donald asked me to follow Rebekah by holding on to the back of the bi-ski.

Unbeknownst to me, she had been planning this moment all morning in her mind. She headed straight down the hill, accelerating to a breakneck speed, dragging me all the way. We were out of control! What if we hit a tree? What about all those promises I made to her grandparents to keep her safe? I started screaming, “Rebekah! Turn! Turn! TURN!”

With a giggle, she turned and halted our wild slide. “Mrs. Muzzey, I have a need for speed. They’ve been holding me back all morning. Now I finally got it!” By the time Donald got to us, we were both laughing, with tears rolling down our cheeks.

At the end of the lesson, Donald took her to his office and had her call her parents to inform them of her success. “Mom, Dad, I’m having the time of my life! And I think you need to get yourselves in gear and learn to ski, because I love this!” I later found out that this phone call made all the difference to her parents. They were finally able to relax and get rid of the pins and needles.

Every night of the trip, we had group devotions. On the first night, I couldn’t keep quiet about how awesome it was to watch Rebekah ski, about how far she had progressed in one day, and about the crazy trip she had taken with me in tow. I was so proud of her.

The next day, different people wanted to ski with her. One of them was the speaker we had hired. He was trying to explain what happened during that day’s lesson. Instead of someone holding the back of the bi-ski, she had a tether attached from Donald to her bi-ski. But he wasn’t getting the words out in a way that made sense. Rebekah finally piped up to explain, “Look, people. It was like a dog leash. I was on a dog leash!” I know I was holding my gut with pain from laughing.

By the end of the ski trip, almost everyone from our group took some time to come and ski with Rebekah. Everyone was talking about her. In those three short days, that precious soul captured many more spirits with her attitude and wit. No one was afraid of the girl in the wheelchair anymore.

~Linda Muzzey

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