Roughly two weeks ago I traveled to Dire Dawa, a beautiful little oasis of a town in easter Ethiopia (about an 8 hour drive from Addis), to visit Solomon. Solomon is one of the most inspirational and brave men I have ever met. Lyston Peebles originally met Solomon at Mother Teresa’s Clinic for the Sick and Dying.
Solomon, just a few years back was a healthy, strong and happy young man. Unfortunately, he was traveling from Dire Dawa to Addis Ababa when the train he was on derailed. Solomon eventually lost both legs and his right arm from this accident. Amazingly, he survived the numerous surgeries, thanks in large part to the superb care provided by the nuns at Mother Teresa’s. Retiring to a wheel chair for the rest of your life, however, must be quite a challenge both mentally and physically.
Talking with Solomon, you certainly do not get the feeling that it’s a burden, or that things were supposed to be any other way. While Amon Anderson, Ashley Barefoot, Dou Fall, Kassegne Habtamu and myself shared a coke with Solomon and listened to him retell his experiences, we were continually amazed and reminded what a privilege our health is. Solomon’s disposition, on the other hand, radiated hope, peace and a strong sense of self. Meanwhile, all I could think about were the numerous things I complain about (even if only to myself), on a daily basis, that pale in comparison to what Solomon has overcome.
On three different occasions we asked Solomon, through an interpreter so as to clearly articulate our question, what the greatest challenge is that he has faced through all of this. Three times he looked at us like, ‘What are you talking about? This is how things are supposed to be, this is what God intended for me.’ Initially, I thought maybe he didn’t understand the question, but by the third time I was sure that he simply has a stronger disposition on life than I could probably ever hope to attain.
I can’t imagine living without arms and legs. Solomon can’t imagine life any other way. Not because he doesn’t know how good life can be with a healthy body (he’s been there), but because he trusts completely that this is God’s plan for his life.
Today, thanks to a small loan from Lyston and some business planning advice from Amon, Solomon is supporting himself; living a happy, respected life as a small scale entrepreneur. Almost a year ago Solomon opened a DVD rental store. Business is good, mainly because he’s open 24/7 (it’s his home as well), customers trust him, and there’s a demand for DVD rental. This year, Solomon will begin repaying the loan in small increments and most fortunately for me, I’m blessed with the responsibility of keeping track of these repayments which means I’ll get to stay-in-touch with Solomon.
When I find myself getting hot under the collar, or starting to complain about something (I detest this, but admit I’m guilty of it now and again) I now try to remind myself of Solomon’s incredulous look when we asked him, ‘So, what’s been the biggest challenge for you personally through all of this?’
All I can see are his hopeful, reassuring eyes staring back at me as he says simply, ‘What are you talking about? Challenges? This is God’s plan for me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.’
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia