Spencer West — the story of the man with no feet
“Where are your feet?” is the first thing anyone would ask Spencer when they see him. Then they’d give him looks or act all awkward with him. That’s the way he’s always been treated all his life; yet he is as happy as a man can be.
A few weeks ago, Spencer West visited my school (The Latin School of Chicago) and gave us a brief talk. It wasn’t a lecture, nor was it a series didactic advice about how to live our lives. Spencer just talked to us about his childhood, how he got involved with leadership/charity organizations and most important of all, how he’s able to keep a perfectly optimistic and fresh outlook all the time.
Yes the man doesn’t have any feet. He was born that way. The doctor said he has no hopes — certainly how can anyone live a normal life if he cannot even do something as simple as stand up straight or kick a ball? The doctor was wrong. Spencer’s parents believed that he could live, grow and become a respected man. And that is who he is today – respected, known, valued and loved.
Things had not always been easy for him, of course. Back in high school, he was bullied by bigger kids. He was called a f*g when he could only hang out with girls (Spencer couldn’t do any sports) He smiled and told us at our assembly: “I just didn’t get it. They called me a f*g when I was the one with all the ladies!” Spencer also has an awesome sense of humor and that’s partly why he is so optimistic and happy.
After being convinced by a friend to go on a trip to Africa, Spencer decided that he’d commit his life to helping the less fortunate. He finds meaning in helping these impoverished, homeless children. He truly cares about them and they absolutely love him. I almost cried when I saw the video of his trip when he was surrounded by a dozen African kids all trying to hug and be closer to him.
Spencer concluded his story time with us by telling us to stand up and high five the 2 people sitting next to each of us. His point was to be open to and embrace the difference of everyone around us. I felt very good highfiving the two people sitting next to me. It was very awkward, and weird, but also really liberating.
Before leaving, Spencer also told us to note down who or what we are thankful for at the end of each week. It’s a good way to keep track of our lives and to always remember who and what are meaningful to us.
Thanksgiving wasn’t long ago and Xmas is coming. This is a good time of the year for us to look back and just think about who has touched our lives the most. So guys, who are you thankful for? I hope it wouldn’t take you too long to answer that.
The Latin School of Chicago ’12
Team EVSS #5 – International Health
December 4th 2010