Words of wisdom: "See the potential gift."

“A couple of years ago, I spent a bunch of time in Tibet and I came home. And I went to go get my mail. My mailbox is at the end of my street, so I parked my car and started pulling my chair out. And this little girl rode by, probably like 6 years old, on her little pink bike, streamers coming off her handlebars, and she said, ‘What happened to your legs?’

I said: ‘I was a ski racer here at Middlebury, and it was my first day of Christmas vacation. I went to the mountain with my brother, met up with a bunch of friends, took a couple of runs preparing to train, and my ski popped off in the middle of the turn. And I fell in the middle of the trail, and I broke two vertebrae.’

She said, ‘So you’ll never walk again?’ And I said, ‘No, probably not.’ As she rode away, she said, ‘That’s too bad.’

I wish that I had stopped her because if I’d never had my accident I never would have been the best in the world at anything. I wouldn’t have turned a hobby into a profession. I don’t think I would have had the guts to get up in front of you and talk. Wouldn’t have acted in a soap opera. I wouldn’t have met presidents and heads of state.

But that little girl saw the tragedy; she didn’t see the potential gift.”

– Skier Chris Waddell, commencement speech, Middlebury College.

Read other commencement excerpts.

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