I picked Tony Melendez.
Then life happened and while I fired off an email, the project sat untouched. Brandon was gentle about it and sent me an email and quite honestly before the week was over, it left my brain again.
So I am here attempting to apologize.
I saw Tony perform back in 2000 at our parish as part of the week of the March for Life. What struck me was not simply his talent, his illustration of the infinite value of all of us, but the relationship he held with his brother.
His brother introduced him. There was a humorous tale about their youth. But the affection was not a show. The genuine filial love they held for each other, was part of the manifestation of grace that is Tony's message, that all of us, are necessary, that all of us help each of us, to love more as God loves. This is a story of family as much as it is an illustration of brokenness being made whole via grace, via beauty, via love.
Tony's talent of playing the guitar with his feet is illustrative of dedication, determination, imagination, fierce will and proof that the limitations of our bodies are no where near as great as the limitations we have in our minds. He is a great witness to the world to not dismiss the differently abled or visibly handicapped, and to all of us to not listen to the "Can'ts" of the world that have to do with who we are and what we dream.
I didn't get to interview Tony for this write up, but the message he sang for Pope John Paul by his performance and the message he still teaches today each time he picks up the guitar is the same. With God, all things are possible. We are all infinitely loved, and we are all called to infinitely love. Most of our limitations to develop skills, create beauty or grow friendships are our own. His performance will inspire all of us to consider how stunted we are, how much we limit our own capacity to reach others, to grow our talents, and to persevere when the world tells us to quit.
What we forget, we who have all our limbs and thus do not see our brokeness easily, is courage is always needed to perservere, we just often forget to ask for it because we think (foolishly), it somehow should be possible to do all God asks, without asking God.
If you would like to book Tony for a speaking engagement for your parish, here is his website: http://www.tonymelendez.com.
If you need me, I'll be over here planning Thanksgiving dinner.