Former BYU tight end and NFL player for the Philadelphia Eagle and St. Louis Rams, Chad Lewis, spoke to BYU students during National Disability Awareness Week.
Lewis spoke on Wednesday Oct. 28, 2015 at the Wilkinson Student Center. He said he first became inspired by people who have overcome difficult circumstances such as disabilities after his father miraculously recovered from a stroke. Doctors said his father, who was a marathon runner, would never be able to walk again. Lewis said he and his family did not take this as an answer.
His father created an atmosphere in his hospital room, that Lewis said allowed miracles to happen. He said it was full of love of family and friends, as well as the gospel. His mother bought the family a blessing book so they could focus on what they had, as opposed to what they didn’t have.
“It was so powerful to me that after I was a missionary for about a year I realized that thats what I want for the rest of my life,” Lewis said. “I want to be surrounded by greatness.”
Lewis said to this day, his father walks, and even accomplishes difficult hikes with his family.
These experiences have inspired Lewis to publish book titled, “Surround Yourself With Greatness,” in 2009.
Lewis became involved with the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that helps wounded veterans, when he was invited to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with a few of the wounded warriors in May of 2011.
“It was just so powerful to me to get to know them and hear their stories and their struggles,” Lewis said. “Even when chips are down, they’re losing limbs, they still marched forward with so much resolve that it was just totally inspiring.”
Bryan Wagner was one veteran on the climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro. He lost his leg in Iraq in 2007. He said he remembered the climb. “Even if you have all your limbs it’s definitely a challenge, but it was awesome,” he said.
He said his injury has made him into the person he is today. “It was definitely one of the worst things I’ve been through but what we go through in life, all the experience, they shape who we are,” Wagner said. “It definitely made me who i am today.”
Wagner said disability is just a state of mind. He said many are coping with disabilities, but they are doing amazing things.
“Life’s not over,” Wagner said. “You can’t let something small like losing your leg get in the way of achieving your goals.”
Lewis’ lecture aimed to address that many people are dealing with disabilities, and they are living their lives incredibly.
“I think it’s very important for people to be sensitive to the fact that others are struggling in many ways, and it’s really important to know that,” Lewis said. “It helps us have more compassion for other people, which is an attribute we all need to work on, I know I do.”
He said part of living is dealing with struggles and disabilities in a strong way. “That’s life,” Lewis said. “You figure it out on the fly and you make it work.”
Lewis also mentioned that a part of surrounding yourself with greatness is serving everyone, even those who will condemn you when you do so. He explained that gospel and Jesus Christ are the most important things.
BYU senior, Shanelle Applegarth, explained what she enjoyed most about Lewis’s lecture.
“I think Chad Lewis has that attitude that you can overcome anything if you have the attitude,”Applegarth said. “We’re at BYU with such amazing people that finding that good group of people that really mean that much to you and surrounding yourself with them, I think thats really awesome.
Rulon Dahneke, a BYU sophomore who also attended the lecture, agreed.
“I just love his emphasis on attitude because I think it’s super important to have that attitude about life because that’s what Christ ultimately taught,” Dahneke said. “Through all of Lewis’ stories and examples, I can see that attitude coming from gospel and coming from the Savior.”
Lewis closed his lecture with some inspiring words.
“When it comes to disabilities, the greatest thing we can do is give each other a hand,” he said.