Each of Us Has a Story
In 2015 a movie called I Am Potential was released and I saw it recently for the first time. It's based on the life of Patrick Henry Hughes, born in 1988 without eyes and other developmental problems that required him to be in a wheelchair from infancy. Patrick's father discovered his small boy had a keen ear for music when he was quite young, and being a musician himself he threw his efforts into giving his son musical training. At an early age Patrick began playing piano and it didn't take long for his family to see he was in fact gifted in music.
During his teen years a broken leg prevented Patrick from being able to reach the piano keys. Out of his frustration and deep longing to play, he decided he could also learn to play the trumpet, and so he did.
I enjoyed the movie on many levels, and I would recommend it to anyone dealing with a loved one with special needs, or who has an interest in a real-life story that is in fact still in action today. There were things in the movie that I thought were very well presented with a degree of understanding and sensitivity I don't always see in media productions, and being a dad of boys with special needs I picked up on those right away. To start, I saw the dad's frustration, perhaps even denial, in dealing with the immediate issues they were surrounded with as soon as Patrick came home from the hospital. There were stresses and strains in their marriage over Patrick's needs, there were friends who cared but couldn't quite understand the sudden shift in direction that this family was forced to take. There were dreams that both parents had that had to be put on hold, some that were eventually just given up for good. There was the fear of having more children, wondering if this might happen to them again.
Also well presented was the element of guilt and sorrow that accompany some life events, as in the guilt and remorse that Patrick's grandfather experienced when Patrick was injured while in his care.
As the story continues to unfold, we see Patrick's father giving up his career and a lucrative promotion in order to make his son's dreams come true, and not the first time he had put a dream aside for his son. We see the father struggling between the demands of his job and providing for his family against the demands of the care for his son with special needs, with a less-than-understanding employer to further complicate those demands.
We were shown typical, routine issues that families caring for loved ones with special needs often face, such as sleep deprivation, endless medical appointments, regular hospital stays, and trying to fit in with friends and family members when in reality we don't fit anywhere any more.
I appreciated the impact shown on Patrick's younger siblings. The Hughes family had two more sons who were born without disabilities. What I appreciated about the movie's depiction of their family life is I saw the younger brothers completely unconcerned with their older brother's disability. This was their family and for them it was completely normal to have a brother who had special needs. There was a wild, recklessness about them just being boys with each other that I thought was great.
Today Patrick and his father are a team who travel and speak together, presenting a positive and encouraging message about lives unexpected but powerfully lived. Patrick continues to perform, still playing both piano and trumpet. He is thirty years old now, and as fully engaged with his community and the world as I could expect anyone to be.
It's a remarkable story, and it inspires possibilities for anyone, whether dealing with disabilities or not. The title comes from the book which Patrick wrote about his life, I Am Potential, which I have not yet read but I put it on my list of books to tackle.
Yes, it was a great message but in the end I have to come back to the flip side of this kind of experience. Not every child born with severe disabilities can achieve as Patrick has. In fact, many children born with rare diseases and disorders do not survive long enough to even begin such a fulfilling life, and their families are left to pick up the pieces of their shattered dreams and broken hearts. Watching this movie I know first hand that many parents will ache wishing something as incredible could happen for their child. Underneath these incredible success stories, that are truly remarkable and beautiful, are many, many children and families whose lives and struggles are invisible. No one will ever write a book about them or produce a movie based on their experiences. And yet their struggles, their dreams, their accomplishments, their stories are just as real, and very often just as powerful.
One of the promises I made to my son Adam when he was younger was that I would tell his story, it's what he asked me to do. I try to do that every opportunity I get, and as we go forward I am starting to collect many stories. They are deep, they are powerful, and they hit every emotion, every feeling, every experience possible, each one about a life that leaves an impact, of a child or a human being that is loved and will never be forgotten.