I love comic books. No kidding, even today I am a huge fan of comics. I have poured over pages of Spider-Man, Captain America, Daredevil, Black Panther and Green Lantern. These characters and their stories taught me about overcoming challenges, respecting your power and gifts, helping others and built the foundation of my early morality. My favorite heroes never hesitated to jump into the thick of things, to do what was right and make a stand.
We talk alot about heroes today; people who take a stand and fight, whether it is for a cause, a nation or to save another. Heroes can be personal, someone who makes the change or difference in one life, or act on a larger scale, such as acts of heroism of first responders and military personnel.
As a veteran, this label is sometimes applied to me. Honestly, it makes me uncomfortable. Granted, my actions may have saved someone or done some great things, but I have never been comfortable with the label of hero. The reason for me is quite simple, I don't believe that I belong on a pedestal. I'm a human being, prone to screwing up, so I find the footing on a pedestal to be precarious and my odds of falling from it high.
Adam Gorlitsky is also put on a pedestal by people; and he's also uncomfortable with it.
Adam's story is definitely heroic in scope. After a catastrophic car accident in 2005, Adam was left paralyzed from the waist down, something he lived with for 10 years. In 2015, Adam had the opportunity to try out a new robotic exoskeleton that would enable him to stand up and walk. Adam became the first paralyzed man in history to complete Charleston's Cooper River Bridge Run; a 6.2 mile course that took him almost 7 hours and 17,932 steps to complete. That's not all. Adam is now completing his One-Million Steps Tour where he will walk 1 million steps in various road races around the country.
All this while running I Got Legs, his nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of the disabled community. Adam is incredible, there is no doubt about that. I can honestly say that I don't know if I could do what he does everyday. Losing one leg has always been a deep fear of mine, both is a true nightmare.
As we sit and sip our coffee outside a small shop in North Charleston, the breeze blows through with a bit of a bite, dulled by the warmth of the sun rising through the day. The same warmth radiates from Adam, an enthusiasm you can feel as surely as anything in your life. It is electric with the weight of stone, it's strength and drive, it's what passion and purpose feels like when you sit across from it. Adam's story is incredible, it's easy to call him a hero, but he sits just like anyone else. In fact he seems incredibly eager to learn more about me and my story than to tell his own again.
Adam has about a million questions about my story; from my time in the military, fighting for an identity after leaving and my eventual path to 100 Connections. It's fascinating to him, a story he is enraptured with, and so we sit; two men absolutely fascinated with each other's story. I tell him about deployments and doubts, about fighting for something greater than yourself and learning to define yourself in your own terms after a lifetime of using other people's words.
Adam tells me he is always fascinated with the stories of others because it's amazing to see your own story reflected in theirs. In my story, Adam sees parallels of struggle and defiance, of fighters who are doing just that, fighting. In Adam's I see inspiration, and a reflection of my work to face down fear and pursue my purpose with intention.
We talk about pedestals, something we both are uncomfortable on. Adam reminds me that we are all only human, he laughs because to him it's funny that anyone would think we are perfect. I laugh in agreement because it is funny. As people we tend to worship our heroes, expecting the absolute best from them at all times, then becoming outraged when they prove to be human as well and fail to be perfect. Even Spider-Man failed to save some people.
Adam and I talk about life, my new friend has true wisdom, that amazing treasure that appears when we combine our knowledge with experience in life. He tells me about how he seeks to live a life of fulfillment. I tell him how I aim to live the same life, one where I have achieved and found lasting joy, seeing happiness as temporary and fleeting, something to be enjoyed but not endlessly searched for. He smiles that same knowing smile I am growing used to during our conversation and nods his head; Adam and I are kindred spirits, people seeking to change the world, fighting a fight that many think we cannot win. We both know we can.
Talking to Adam I lose track of time, minutes soon become hours and the hours stack upon one another. When we finally do decide to call it for the day neither of us truly want to end the conversation. This will be the first of many conversations, we aren't done by a long shot, and yet it is always sad to see one end. My friend is a wise man, a strong man and one who knows he is just a man. Still in being human there is an incredible beauty, a reflection of the image of God, each of us a tiny reflection from a different angle.
The incredible things you can learn at morning coffee.
It would be easy to say that Adam is a real life Iron Man; I'm almost positive someone has written or said it. It would be easy, but it would also be wrong. Tony Stark's suit is amazing, and his ability to invent it is incredible, but it handles a lot of the work. Adam's exoskeleton requires training and drive, a lot of work to make steps you and I take for granted. Tony Stark is a fictional character, Adam Gorlitsky is a real person; a man with all of the problems and baggage that any of us might have.
Adam's more than a hero, he's a human being; an incredible person just working to make the world better every day. Really, what more is there?
Favorite Dinosaur: Pterodactyl
Why: Just likes saying the word.
Check out I Got Legs and learn more about them here: http://igotlegs.org/