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Two paraplegics were in the news recently. One was Kenneth Wright, a high school football star and later an avid wrestler, boxer, hunter and skin diver. A broken neck sustained in a wrestling match in 1979 left him paralyzed from the chest down. He underwent therapy, and his doctors were hopeful that one day he would be able to walk with the help of braces and crutches.

But apparently, the former athlete could not reconcile himself to his physical disability. He prevailed upon two of his best friends to take him in his wheelchair to a wooded area, where they left him alone with a twelve-gauge shotgun. After they left, he held the shotgun to his abdomen and pulled the trigger. Kenneth Wright, twenty-four, committed suicide.

The second paraplegic in the news was Jim McGowan. Thirty years ago, at the age of nineteen, Jim was stabbed and left paralyzed from the middle of his chest down. He is now confined to a wheelchair. But he made the news recently when he made a successful parachute jump, landing on his target in the middle of Lake Wallenpaupack in the Poconos.

Newspeople learned a number of things about Jim. He lives alone, cooks his meals, washes his clothes and cleans his house. He drives himself in his specially equipped automobile. He has written three books, and he did the photography for our country’s first book on the history of wheelchair sports.

Two men with handicaps: one chose life and the other one didn’t. As Robert Frost wrote: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I took the one less traveled by--and that has made all the difference."

(From a sermon by Andy Barnard "How to Handle Disappointment" 12/27/2008)

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