“A Hero for the Ages”
from Things That Grab Your Heart and Won’t Let Go
|We all face adversity in our lives. However, it’s not the adversity but how we react to it that determines the joy and happiness in our lives. I want to share a story with you that more than five years later still gives me goose bumps.
The date was July 16, 2008. It was late in the afternoon and I was sitting in my hotel room in Louisville, Kentucky. I was scheduled to speak that evening to 1,500 school principals, but I was a little “down in the dumps.” My travel schedule had been hectic and my exercise schedule had suffered.
My keynote presentation was scheduled for 7:00 p.m., but I had been invited to show up at 6:00 p.m. to see a performance they said I’d enjoy. Little did I know I was about to see something I would never forget.
They introduced the young musician. Welcome…Mr. Patrick Henry Hughes. He was rolled onto the stage in his wheelchair and began to play the piano. His fingers danced across the keys as he made beautiful music.
He then began to sing as he played, and it was even more beautiful. There was this aura about him that I really can’t explain and the smile…his smile was magic!
About ten minutes into Patrick’s performance, someone came on the stage and said, “I’d like to share a seven-minute video titled “The Patrick Henry Hughes Story.’“ And the lights went dim.
Patrick Henry Hughes was born with no eyes and a tightening of the joints that left him disabled for life. However, as a child, he was fitted with artificial eyes and placed in a wheelchair. Before his first birthday, he discovered the piano. His mom said, “I could hit any note on the piano, and within one or two tries, he’d get it.” By his second birthday, he was playing requests (“You Are My Sunshine,” “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”). His father was ecstatic. “We might not play baseball, but we can play music together,” he said.
At the time of his performance, Patrick was a junior at the University of Louisville. His father attended classes with him and Patrick earned nearly all As, with the exception of three Bs. He was also part of the 214-member marching band. You read it right…the marching band! He was a blind, wheelchair-bound trumpet player; he and his father did it together. They attended all the band practices and the halftime performances in front of thousands. His father rolled and rotated his son around the field to the cheers of Patrick’s fans. In order to attend Patrick’s classes and every band practice, his father worked graveyard shifts at UPS. Patrick said, “My dad’s my hero.” But even more than his unbelievable musical talent, it was Patrick’s “attitude of gratitude” that touched my soul. On stage between songs, he talked to the audience about his life and about how blessed he was. He said, “God made me blind and unable to walk. BIG DEAL! He gave me the ability…the musical gifts I have…the great opportunity to meet new people.”
When his performance was over, Patrick and his father were on the stage together. The crowd rose to their feet and cheered for more than five minutes. It gave me chills!