A Boy And His Wings…

Cheese and Whine

Life is tough, situations are hard, relationships frustrate, work sucks, and we’re not getting nearly as deep into life’s rich bounty as we feel we deserve.  Oh, and I didn’t forget that strangers usually don’t treat us well, the government is ruining our lives, and we’re all aging and aching more with each passing day – despite our efforts to look and feel like we’re 25 years old.  Poor, poor pitiful us.  Well little wretch of a more deserving hominid, it could be worse, or better perceived…

Jian Be Nimble

Jian is one of three children my brother and his wife have adopted from China.  Jian is 9 years old and looks vaguely Asian.  With round eyes, caramel skin, and a forehead trimmed by some bang-like fringe, Jian appears to be a boy on the prowl for mischief – but he is not.  Jian is shy, speaks softly, is sweeter than candy corn, and performs most of the tasks that you and I take for granted with his feet.  Jian was born without arms.  Just writing that sentence humbled me back into last week.

I went to lunch with Jian and his sisters last month during my summer visit to my brother’s home in the mountains of Colorado.  On being seated by the hostess, we requested a booster seat for Jian.  At an age when booster seats are no longer needed, the hostess looked confused.  The booster seat, turned upside down and placed on his chair, is so Jian can have a high, flat surface to sit on since he eats with his feet.  The booster seat is more like a throne than a tool for Jian – from that height it often feels like Jian is holding court for those around and beneath him. 

At a familiar restaurant, and seated with his mother, two sisters and I, Jian didn’t need to look at the menu because he already knew what he wanted for lunch – hot wings.  Yes, finger-foods, for a boy with no fingers, let alone no arms.  Now one might think some outside help might be needed – that his lunch of choice might be prepared for a better assault by him with help from his family.  Nope.  No help was required from his sisters nor me – not even for hot wings.  And he tore through them too, reminiscent of Fred Flintstone making short work of a rack of bronto-ribs. 

But what grasped me most as I watched Jian devour his lunch was the pile of white chicken bones he left on his plate – he cleaned every gram of meat and sauce off of them.  Straight up, I was in awe of his mad toe skills.  And then, I quietly cried to myself.  What right do I have, I wondered, to have a bad day, or a bad lunch for that matter…? Using my knife and fork, I continued to put away my steak salad, but suddenly felt quite pampered to do so.

Dancing With Them Who Brung Ya

Jian writes, draws, and colors with his feet.  He counts his money with his feet.  He pets his dogs and cats with his feet.  He flushes the toilet with his feet.  He holds and drinks cups of juice with his feet.  He even hits his sisters with his feet, but I guess technically we should still refer to that as kicking.  Jian does just about everything with his feet, and that which he can’t do with his feet, he can usually accomplish with the combination of his chin and his shoulder – together they pair up like a grappling hook of extraordinary dexterity to move, maneuver, or carry whatever he needs to, and he does so fluidly.

I pity the fool who tries to take the remote from Jian. Pity him....

So here’s the deal, you may think this is a story about Jian – a boy with no arms, and his lack of concern for something he never had.  It’s not.  It’s a story about me and you – our whining, complaining, and bitching our way through life, for all we think we don’t have, for all of our problems, and all we think we can’t accomplish due to our perceived limitations.  

This may be a bit lofty, but more recently in those times when I think my life most sucks and I exist in a sea of limitations, I try to think of Jian whom I have never heard complain – not once, about living life with no arms, and he probably doesn’t spend a lot of time pondering it.  And I wonder; if reading this will change the way you view your day today, will you allow that change last into tomorrow…?  Comments are open this week, and you’re welcome to share this by Twitter, Facebook, email, or carrier-pigeon if you think it’s worthy – I happen to think it is.  Be well.  rc


Please check back in two week for my essay, Trial Separation; Thoughts On My Love/Hate Relationship With Art Of Bodybuilding. 

Oh, and there is this gem; Adrian Belew and Martha Wainwright covering brian Eno’s, Heroes. Connections like this are what playing and watching live music is all about.  Enjoy…

12 responses

  1. Agreed Robert. Somewhat coincidental (or cohencidental), I was run off the road on Winterhaven this morning at 5:30 or so, in the dark and fog. Bent my rim, lost a tire, scraped my head and my hands. Was pisses for about 3 hours or so. Then I went back to writing the above. It’s all good man, it’s all good.

  2. After all the bitching and moaning and whining and crying and complaining I’ve done this week (over things I could have total control over, mind you..), I think I’ll eat my piece of humble pie now. Sounds like a great little boy!

    • Julie, yesterday morning, shortly after I finished writing this, I went off the road on my bike. Broke a rim, bruised some ribs, and was pissed off for nearly an hour — very angry. Then I re-read the above; bought a new rim and tire, stretched out my ribs, and told myself to “flow with the bummers. I eat humble pie every day of my life — but it’s great nourishment…!

  3. Beautiful piece, Roy…I’m with a tear…but not for long…Im taking your advice today on the first day of fall and Im going to enjoy every minute of it. I’ve met Jian…he is pretty special…even if he dont think so…cool beans, little dude…I was unaware of the things he does and the story is not only uplifting with unsaid courage, but it really is a “perspective” piece…keep ’em
    comin’, brother, man.

    • Thanks Beej. I appreciate the love. I love that you “get it”, you mindful ittle guitar palying, camaro driving, long-haired hippy type! Seriously, it’s all about perspective. Peace, love, and drop D tuning!

  4. Shit, Roy! I was soooo glad I chose to walk away from a confrontation and read your post. Who the hell am I to be bitching about anything?? I have it better than most and don’t always realize it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  5. Roy,
    This is such an inspiring story…and one that reminds me of just how much I have (will I realize that tomorrow – that’s the real question).

    Thanks for sharing this story of Jian.

  6. Thank you for sharing. Jian is indeed a special boy. Isn’t it interesting what we assume is a hinderance is merely something he has overcome and not let rule his life? I often think those of us who are ‘whole’ are actually more limited than those of us who have obvious limitations for the whole world to see.

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