Friday, October 7, 2011

Courage, Hope & Tears

J. R. Martinez.

What does that name mean to you? Anything?

To me, it means courage. It means fighting off fear. It means finding a way to believe and be optimistic, even when there is NO DAMN WAY things are going to get better.

See, J.R. Martinez was a regular kid from the South. Like you. Like me. Nineteen years old. Full of life and dreams. Then he joined the military. Seven months later, he drove his Humvee over a land mine and blew up.

A week later, he was a nineteen year old kid who was burned from head to toe, in severe pain. The first time he looked at his mangled face, he decided that he would have been better off if he hadn't survived that fire. He cried. He raged. He lost hope. Just like I would. Just like you would. Because J.R. was a regular kid. Like you. Like me. There was nothing special about J.R.. When his body was destroyed, he broke. Like I would. Like you would. We are like J.R.

What chance of a life did he have at that point? More than thirty painful surgeries lay ahead of him, and that was just to get him to the point of being able to function, not to ever make him look like he did before. Almost three full years in the hospital. Pain. Isolation. More pain. Stares from strangers. What kind of job could he get? Who would love him, let alone marry him, with the way his face was disfigured?  This kid, this nineteen year old kid, deprived of life before he had a chance to live it.

Or was he?

As J.R. lay there, in emotional and physical agony, his mom sat down with him. And she told him that the people who will be in his life will be those who love him for who he is, not for what he looks like.

Those simple words, that simple statement, woke something up in J.R. And on that day, for whatever reason, he made a choice. He decided to be optimistic and positive every day. He decided to fight, fight, fight, fight. He decided to overrule fear.

J.R. made this choice when there was no reason on this earth for him to believe things were going to be okay. He made that choice when every move caused him pain, when every time he looked in the mirror, he saw a face that he didn't recognize.  Any human alive would know there was nothing to be positive about, nothing to believe in, nothing to look forward to. There was no future, there was no out, there was no light at the end of this tunnel.

But J.R. didn't bother with all that crap. He simply started living, through his pain, through his scars, through his loneliness.

The first that happened for him? A nurse came in and told him about another soldier with burns who had just seen his face for the first time, and had turned out the lights. J.R. went in and spoke with him, friend to friend, person to person, soul to soul.  And after he left, the solider opened his curtains back up.

That's when J.R. knew he could make a difference. And therein began the life J.R. came here to live. He has become an internationally sought motivational speaker, he has become an actor, and, having never danced a step in his life, he has become a favorite on Dancing with the Stars, a show where grace and elegance and the beauty of the human body is honored and cherished. He has scars, but all you see when J.R. is on stage is his passion, his courage, and his refusal to let a little thing like burns on half his body stop him from laughing, from loving, from changing the world. J.R. has become an inspiration to all those who are facing a dark period in their lives, a long, endless tunnel of hopelessness. If J.R. can find a way out, if he can figure out how to fight, how to turn his life into something beautiful that gives him joy, then by hellfire and damnation, so can the rest of us.

Thank you, J.R. for giving me the courage to fight, to open myself to whatever and wherever this journey of life is supposed to take me. You are my inspiration. You are a regular person, and yet you have become more. You have taken your life and made it fly. I'm a regular person, too, so that means if you can do it, so can I. So can I.

And to you, the person reading this post: if you have never taken the time to watch a single YouTube video, watch the one below. All of it. You will cry. You will cheer. And you will look at your life and you will have hope and find courage that you never had before.

1 comment:

leisa said...

I watched him on the soap "All My Children" and was amazed by his courage...I now watch him on "Dancing with the Stars" and fell in love with the guy...I vote for him every week...what an inspiration!!!!!..