On one of my first days of choir in high school, I met someone who changed my life. I didn’t realize at the time how much he would teach me. His name was Vince. He rolled into choir on a skateboard and climbed into a chair in the front. I know that he could feel the eyes of all the freshmen on him, but he didn’t care. He just sat and talked to the people around him. The reason we all stared was Vince’s legs were amputated just above his knees and without prosthetics he was, as he was proud to say, two feet and seven inches tall. He was so comfortable with himself that he didn’t mind the obtrusive stares. I believe that one friend such as Vince can inspire significant changes in a person.
Throughout the year, Vince and I became friends. He could befriend anyone and put people at ease in seconds. Vince would create all sorts of stories about how he lost his legs in a car accident or shark attack to make people laugh and make them more comfortable. At some point before I met him, Vince had decided that it would be funny to design a t-shirt to make people laugh. He came in to school many days with his shirt which read “got legs?” At first, I was shocked that he would joke about it, but, as I got to know him, I understood it was all a part of his personality. He would kid with people saying that he was the only one who could wake up in the morning and decide if he wanted to be tall today.
Vince would always encourage people to be themselves no matter what. He wanted everyone to be open and honest. Being able to laugh at your own shortcomings was a virtue Vince held in high regard. He inspired many people to do just that and, when he died suddenly in a car accident, over 500 people attended his memorial service and at least a hundred more expressed a desire to be there through Facebook. His courage to be true to himself was eye-opening.
I learned so much from Vince. I strive to become more like him in some ways. I try every day to become more comfortable with myself and encourage others to do the same. Until I met Vince, I never thought that anyone was completely comfortable with themselves. Everyone I had ever met was at least slightly uneasy about some aspect of themselves. In such a short time, Vince was an inspiration to so many people to be honest and content with themselves. I am reminded of him every day as I struggle to acknowledge my true identity. Vince’s ability to help people was extraordinary. I truly believe that this friendship was able to inspire in me a noteworthy change. Although I still struggle with some insecurities, Vince motivated me to accept more of myself and hold back nothing of my personality.
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