Dear Richard Sherman,
It was really nice to meet you the other day in the Las Vegas airport. I’m sure you don’t remember me because you are undoubtedly approached by hundreds of people a day. Just to remind you, I was the cute blonde in the hot pink wheelchair with the killer smile. I respect your decision to not take a picture together expressing that it would draw too much attention. Although it was disappointing, I found that you were incredibly gracious and kind when we were chatting. I can’t imagine having that many strangers interrupt my daily activities, and still have the patience and good attitude to have pleasantries with each and every one of them.
Richard, Rich, Sherm, Shermy, I want you to know just how much of an inspiration you have been to me. In December of 2012 I had the most horrific day of my life. I was in a car accident in which a tree fell on our car, the lives of my family and I were changed forever. You see, my family and I had planned to go on a family vacation right before Christmas. We piled in the car and headed to Leavenworth, Washington. My parents in the front seat, myself, my sister Jaime, her husband Steven, and my brother Jeremy in the back. When the tree struck our car my parents were instantly killed, my sister and brother-in-law broke both of their legs in numerous spots, arms, hips, facial bones, and many internal injuries, my brother received slightly less trauma, and I was left paralyzed from the neck down. At 27 years old it was easy to find the dark place in my mind that told me that my life was over. Prior to the accident I was an active woman who ran half marathons, triathlons, went wine tasting with my girlfriends, lived in a cute apartment downtown, and loved my job as a teacher fiercely. As time progressed, and I received the support of family and friends, I began to grow stronger. Proving many of the doctors wrong I began to walk, slowly, unsteadily, and with help, but I embraced the idea that my life was not over yet. With help and guidance I began to get pieces of my life back. I work out four times a week with a handsome and very muscly therapist, I do volunteer tutoring at a school across the street, and I am working towards getting back in the classroom again to teach. I know that I have more to offer this world, and that my paralysis can hold my body back, but it will not slow my spirit down.
I want you to know that I have drawn a lot of my inspiration from you. Getting picked in the fifth round of the NFL draft, watching 24 corners go before you can seem like you’ve already been kicked to the curb before you even started. But, you never let that bother you. You said I am the best, no one can stop me, and I will be the most successful cornerback in the NFL. The doctors and therapist continued to bring me what was probably realistic, but negative news and channeling your strength I was able to say I am going to walk again, I will feed myself, I will brush my hair, and I will damn right learn how to kick some ass along the way. It inspires me that you speak your mind no matter where you are, or who you are talking to. Similarly, I’ve seen you write the most profound and intelligent articles I have ever seen from a football player. You have proven your knowledge of the game, and your ability to share your thinking with others. You bring my spirits up by reminding me that I am the only one that is holding me back. In fact, I believe it was you who quoted John Wooden in saying that “Success is never final; Failure is never fatal; It’s courage that counts!”
Let me go on to say something even more profound or sagacious. I know we only met for a moment, and that there is no reason that you would remember me, but just as I have drawn strength from you, I think you’ll find that you can draw strength from me. There is no cure for spinal cord injury. There is no magic pill that can make any athlete taller. We all have to work with what we have been given. Each morning I wake up and I struggle to sit up, but as a stretch and begin my morning routine I put my game face on and get ready to start kicking some ass. Every little thing is harder for me than anyone else, but that doesn’t mean that I’m about to give in. Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle. There is no shortcut to a great achievement. There is no substitute for doing the work. As Einstein once said, “Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work.” You must run to be a runner. You must write to be a writer. You must actively work on a business venture to learn how to run a successful business.
Some of the issues that you take on have to do with race. Although we are different colors, I like to think that not only can I understand, but that I am an advocate for all types of coteries. First, I grew up in a multicultural—rainbow family —if you will. My sister is Asian, and my brother is black. This was all before the time of Brangelina, and certainly before it was acceptable to have this type of family. Growing up, I was very involved in ensuring equality for both my brother and sister. Now, I find myself as a minority in the disabled group and an advocate for others like myself. You would be amazed how many businesses just don’t give a damn about anyone who isn’t able bodied. Like you, I believe in speaking up for either those who don’t have a voice themselves, or in subject matter that needs to be addressed by someone who has a position that can be supportive. Even when we discover what motivates us, we can’t go that distance alone.
Let’s be honest, you have a smoking hot body! :-) I know that you have to work really hard for that. Well, I have to work really hard for mine too. If I go one day without walking, I go one day without stretching, if I go one day without the painstakingly and seemingly easy gestures of standing and reaching for something I can lose everything. My strength deteriorates so quickly. So while you’re in the gym, working on that impeccable chest, think of me, and how hard I have to work to do the little things, like eat, brush my teeth, or pull up my pants so that the whole world doesn’t get a little show of my crack!
So let me know when you’re ready to be best friends, because I see a lot of good in you, and I think you will find a lot of good in me.
Keep on keeping on!
Oh, and I will see you at the softball game in a couple of weeks!