My dad, Richard Bence, used to be an inspirational speaker as a side-gig to his successful dentistry career. His signature speech was published in a book called Build a Better You-Starting Now! Vol.6 when I was still a kid. I grew up listening to this story and it inspires me to this day.
He started his chapter of the book with a list of practical ways, which are still relevant, to build success in your life. And then he closed it out with a story to inspire us all. When we feel like we can’t do it and we want to give up, we need stories like this. Enjoy…
It begins. . . with the birth of a baby girl. Two weeks after her birth, while I was on a business trip, I called home and was told that this little baby had developed a fever. The next morning, she was hospitalized with spinal meningitis.
(This girl was not me. It is my sister who is 2 years older than me.)
She had been admitted to McConnell AFB hospital, but at noon she was transferred to the pediatric clinic at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Wichita, Kansas. Her condition was critical, and she was not expected to live through the night. During the next 18 hours, I drove the 1200 miles to Wichita. She was still alive.
My daughter had convulsions for five days, during which she was given enormous dosages of antibiotics. When she was dismissed from the hospital three weeks later, the neurologist and the pediatrician stated that she most certainly had suffered brain damage.
(My sister was not expected to live a normal life. The doctors predicted that she would have severe disabilities.)
By the time she was three years old, it was obvious that this delightful little girl was. . . experiencing difficulties with motor coordination and had diagnosable learning disabilities. She attended a school for children with learning disabilities for the next six years and transitioned to the public-school system’s “learning disabled” curriculum.
Nearly three months before her sixth birthday, she came to me and said, “Dad, take the training wheels off my bicycle—I’m going to learn to ride without them before my birthday.”
Day after day she sat on the bicycle, moving it back and forth on the driveway, tipping it from side to side, trying to balance it. One day, a month or so after the training wheels were removed, I watched her from the window. I concluded that she was not likely to accomplish her goal.
But, much to my surprise, she came to me a few days later and said, “Dad, get some film! Tomorrow I’m going to ride that bike, and I want you to take a picture of me.”
I had recently bought a sound movie camera, and I want you to know what I capture on that film. We took the bike over to a neighbor’s driveway, which had a slight incline. And that almost-six-year-old girl coasted down the driveway and then began to pedal. As she came past me with her face full of excitement and exhilaration, she shouted out in a voice that was partly laughing and partly crying, “I can do it! I can do it!”
My dad died in 2017; and as the family reminisced, we talked about his “I can do it” story and how Dad never shied away from challenging things. One day declared he would complete a marathon. He trained for months, and when that day came, he certainly wasn’t the fastest, but he might have been the most inspiring. He wore a bright green t-shirt that in white letters across the front read “I CAN DO IT,” in honor of my sister and her determination.
Bystanders at the marathon could clearly see him coming and would cheer him on. His shirt declared his dedication, so they clapped and encouraged him.
And as he ran past them, they could then clearly see the back of his shirt… It read “YOU CAN DO IT.”
You can do it.
You don’t have to be a bystander while other people take on life’s challenges. You don’t have to believe you aren’t capable because life dealt you a bad hand, or you endured a debilitating illness like my sister. Whatever it is you are facing, or dreaming of, or afraid to try… You can do it.
My sister can do it. My dad can do it. I can do it. And you can do it too.