Hands On Food!
In some countries, eating with your hands is perfectly acceptable. Obviously, in formal settings utensils are necessary – whether it’s a fork, spoon, or even chopsticks. But for some foods and in some settings, a hands-on approach is perfectly appropriate. But what if you don’t have hands?
This past week I had the chance to read a book, What’s Your Excuse, from motivational speaker, John Foppe, who was born without arms and hands. The big question for me when confronting unique individuals like John is, “how does he eat?” His experience shows me a different approach to “hands-on” eating. He eats with his feet!
His story is remarkable. I met John and his lovely wife at a Legatus presentation this past summer in St. Louis. They provided me some materials about his wonderful work. As a motivational speaker, John inspires people with the knowledge that some things are even more important than hands and feet - such as a determination to hope; a zeal to live with knowledge that God is here to help us; and a love that disciplines us to be God’s child first and a person dealing with a condition (such as being born without arms and hands) second. John and I had an instant connection in that he also loves to cook – using only his feet! He would put me to shame if the competition required us to tie our hands behind our backs!
Providentially, in the same week I finished reading John Foppe’s book, I also gave a presentation at a conference in Great Falls Montana where the other keynote presenter was world-famous Tony Melendez, a speaker, singer and guitar player who was also born without arms and hands. He does everything with his feet! He humbles me in that he lives his faith, not just in his words and songs, but in how he walks the walk – as that’s what God gave him! Tony, like John, shows the world that they live life fully, even if differently. And, despite their condition (and in their case because of their condition) they do great things. When Tony sang a song and played the guitar with his feet for Pope John Paul II, the Pontiff left his throne and kissed the armless musician! Now talk about amazing!
This double dose of examples of people with special conditions, in particular, those born without arms, hands, legs, etc., reminded me never to take life for granted. They also showed me never to underestimate the abilities of people who face unique obstacles. They tell the world a powerful message that having faith, hope, and love of God is given to all people equally – no matter who they are or how they’re born. A life without faith handicaps a person by limiting their ability to see only the objective physical reality. Faith, however, provides a great insight to see meaning and purpose, even if you can’t see your hands in front of your face. The inspiring examples of Tony and John also show us how the gift of life, though different for each person, is always a gift from God that we need to protect from the womb to the tomb. Both John and Tony have changed millions of lives for the better. They arguably have done more than many people who are born with arms and hands.
I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a meal with both Tony and John. While watching them use their feet, just leaning to grab their food in their mouths, can honestly be a bit shocking at first. Then you realize the unique beauty in God’s way of using the rest of human body to compensate. It is really a “grace before meals” moment to see how God will use anything to feed his people with inspiration, including people who have no arms or hands.
There are times that I pray that I don’t cut myself (which I’ve done) while doing a cooking demonstration on TV or in a live presentation. I feel that if I cut myself, the inability to use one or both of my hands would really limit my ability to do what I believe God calls me to do – feed people. But, in Tony and John’s case, I need to rethink my prayer. After all, Tony and John have fed my spirit and so many others. They can boast that they have fed the “cooking priest” using no hands!
|Let us pray: Father, bless John and Tony, their lives, their families, and their mission and ministry in feeding souls, while dealing with unique and challenging physical conditions. Give to all who hear their message – either by listening to Tony’s beautiful songs, seeing John’s remarkable paintings, or watching them in action – a great sense of hope to help them with their own struggles in life. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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