Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Bitter and Sweet (05/28/09)
TITLE: From Lemons to Lemonade
By Noel Mitaxa
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Some local identities also stand tall, like Jill Halloran…
Jill was seated at the table next to mine when we met at a Colac restaurant. I watched, fascinated, as she finished her coffee with a smile and reunited her cup with its saucer, before sliding them smoothly nearer the edge of her table.
Fascinated at such a simple routine?Should I get out more often? Well maybe, but it's worth explaining that she’d done this while holding her cup with her left foot!!!
Our brief, cheerful conversation impressed on me the sweetness of Jill’s faith: long ago dismantling any bitterness about her beginnings. I arranged an interview, and here is her story…
“I’ve had a lovely life! I’ve just turned sixty-eight. It’s wonderful; because when I was born the doctor told my father that I wouldn’t see my eighth birthday. I’ve outlasted him – and his prediction!
“My mother contracted German measles while she was pregnant, so I was born without hands, and my arms barely reached to where my elbows would have been.
“But a major miracle occurred when I was just nine months old.
“Mum accidentally dropped her handkerchief into my crib. When I reached out with my foot and picked it up, she excitedly phoned the doctor, who quickly came. He dropped a penny into the crib; watched me pick it up; and realised that he may have been wrong about my future.
“The only therapy I’ve ever had has been to keep my left leg and my toes supple enough to maintain my dexterity. For a while I tried to use prosthetic arms that had hooks in place of fingers but they were too heavy and awkward. Nowhere near as useful as my foot!
“My school days were delayed until I was eight, when my sister was old enough to take me with her. I found it easy to learn, and I especially enjoyed writing.
“At first I travelled to school on a tricycle, but I found that my spine was being twisted because my right leg was growing too slowly. They decided to enclose this leg in a prosthetic extension, which gave me better balance, though it stopped me using my tricycle. However my artificial right leg has made me twelve inches taller - at four foot eleven!
“My father bought a car business after I turned sixteen, and I left school to be his telephonist. Using a specially-equipped headset I held this position for twenty-three years; loving every minute of it; getting to know all the phone numbers and license plates; and making a lot of friends.
“Now I attend a community activity center, where I keep my fitness up with a weekly massage. I still do a lot of writing and I paint ceramics, though I’d like to be better at drawing. We love going shopping together, and we often go on outings and tours.
“We recently visited Port Arthur in Tasmania, one of the most brutal prison colonies in the dark beginnings of white settlement in Australia. We also saw the Beaconsfield gold mine, where last year two miners survived for two weeks after an underground collapse, despite being trapped with almost no food or drink.
“As I think about how much my parents prayed for me I know that God has blessed me. I’m grateful for the daily support of local agency staff and volunteers, for the privilege of living in my own home and for all the opportunities he sends me to encourage people.
“My faith is very real, and praying every day helps me to be more generous towards other people; who I love to meet. At one local restaurant, where I’m a regular customer, the manager always arranges a complimentary glass of wine at my table. I also love sport, and I actively support my local football team.
“Whenever children stare at me in shops, or when they see me eating or drinking with my foot on the table (definitely against their table etiquette!) I like to reassure their parents that I don’t mind. In fact I enjoy helping these parents to relax, because it’s all so normal for me.”
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