Artie Abrams is one of the primary characters on the Fox sitcom, Glee. Artie was in a car accident in the 8th grade that paralyzed him from the waist down. If you are unfamiliar with Glee, it is a musical, comedy set in a contemporary American high school, that focuses on an outcast group of kids who find a home in the Glee club. In a recent episode, Artie shares his dream to be able to dance again and this is what happens – Safety Dance

I may run the risk of having my “man card” suspended, but I thought that was pretty cool. It was easy to appreciate the dancing and allow my head to bob with the music, but forget that Artie was having a dream. He is paralyzed. He is in a wheelchair. He can’t dance… can he?

Watching the video made me feel sad. A part of me wanted to fight against the idea that Artie would dream to be out of his wheel chair.

“He is happy in his chair, it’s a part of him, it’s who he is!”

At the same time, I applauded his dream and I would hope right alongside him to be able to dance again. It made me wrestle with my views of the extraordinary people around us.

My sister spent most of her live in the ordinary world; but thanks to a car accident she’s one of the extraordinary. I know (meaning, I believe way down deep) that she would LOVE to dance again, so to speak. As much as she has embraced her new wheels, new crutches, and new life; I would bet a bag of Cheetos that she would love nothing more than have no need of them. I would too.

But, is someone who is born extraordinary different? Do the blind yearn for sight? Do the deaf year to hear? Does my son yearn to dance?

I think so.

I have written over and over again on this blog how I often envy Caedmon, because of his many strengths and qualities. At the same time, I feel sympathy for him. You don’t have to watch a group of kids run around on a playground while Caedmon sits in his chair and watches more than once to develop a broken heart. As strong as he is and as determined as he is; I believe that moments like those cause him to want to dance. I hate it!

I hate it because I am selfish and feel inconvenienced at times. Mostly I hate it because I want him to be able to run and play like with his friends. I love that the monkey bars are fun and hate that they divide. Most playgrounds aren’t designed with wheelchairs or walkers in mind and I hate it. I hate that I would have designed them the same way – before I met Caedmon.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand what is ultimately important. I am the preacher of rethinking our expectations and weeding out the unrealistic success standards that we embrace. I believe that there is more happening than I can see or appreciate. I know that God loves me and God loves Caedmon. Shoot, God loves Caedmon so much more than I do that quantifying it is impossible. But he wants to dance. There has to be a way to help him do just that.

While the first video represents the miraculous. I think this video captures appropriately the place where Artie’s dream collides with his practical reality – Dancing With Myself. 

Where do we come in? Those of us living the more ordinary lives. Those of us who love those that dream and want to help them. How to we offer a hand? I have a couple of thoughts:

  1. We cannot let our fear or ignorance prohibit us from approaching those living extraordinary lives.
  2. We cannot assume that we know what someone else needs or wants. For instance, someone in a wheelchair might not care about the Olympics or the NFL. Their dreams might consist of playing the violin or writing the great American novel.
  3. We cannot let their unique circumstance be an excuse.
  4. We cannot be afraid to be realistic. Did you know that if there were only 15 million males in America, the chance of them playing in the NFL is .000106666667? So if you are in a wheelchair or 6’5″ and run a 4.5, your chances are slim 🙂

Basically, we need to be willing to approach, understand, appreciate, and get creative.

For Artie’s classmates, that looked like this – Proud Mary

What does it look like for you? I don’t know. But I do know that we all have a dream and we have a great opportunity to help one another realize that dream.

Sympathy without activity is self-indulgent and powerless.

Sympathy that prompts activity is self-sacrificial and powerful.

If your dreamer wants to run, find a way.
If your dreamer wants to sail, find a way.
If your dreamer wants to write a play, find a way.
If your dreamer want to dance…


  1. Ryan,

    I have only been following you on Twitter for a few days because I noticed you had started following me (@ladyscalphunter) (which is really cool). Probably because I follow a lot of FSU people. I graduated in 1998 and am still a huge football fan. So this is the first time I have read your blog. I wanted to thank you for this posting. It must be a God thing that I was led to your blog.

    My 4-yr old son was in a lawn mower accident this past May and had severe damage to his left jaw/face and his left arm. He lost all of the fingers on his left hand, half of the hand and part of the ulna in the forearm. He spent 35 days in the ICU in Orlando. I have spent the last 4 months trying to be grateful that he is still alive while simultaneously struggling with the reality of his injuries. I wonder what his life will be like without a functioning left hand.

    Reading this has reminded me that Jacob’s dreams may not be the “afternoons at Little League” dreams that I have as his mom. But then again, that may be his dream. He can do anything he wants to do and I will make sure I can find a way to help him.

    The beautiful thing about Jacob is that his attitude has taught his father and I a lot. He has accepted his injuries and moved on from the accident. We are working on catching up to him. Thank you again for your wonderful blog. It has been amazing to see God work in our lives.

    Kim Roberts

  2. Kim you so much for sharing your story and introducing me to Jacob. I am very sorry about what happened to him; that had to be a horrible expierence. Your family is certainly wrestling with a lot right now.

    We certainly know what it is like to live in an ICU; we did it right when Caedmon was born. It’s ironic that the safest place our kids could possible be are so scary to us, because tragedy is what brings us there. I loved and hated the ICU at the same time.

    I’m not surprised that Jacob had moved on faster than you guys. That seems to be the pattern. It is easier to cope when you can do something about it. As a parent, I often feel powerless, even when I am getting Caedmon to Physical Therapy or buying him an adaptive resource. We want to be able to take the CP away, not just provide a tool to manage life with CP… you know what I mean? There’s guilt, there’s sadness, there’s sympathy.

    But you know what? I’m tall and have freckles. My wife is short and over-annunciates her “t’s” when she is angry. One of my sons cannot pronounce “th,” another has Cerebral Palsy, and another says “look at me” by assualting his other brothers . We are all a part of a big, abnormal family.

    We grow and learn together. In our home, it’s OK to feel sad. It’s OK to ask tough questions. At the same time it’s OK to move on and it’s OK to embrace the tough answers.

    Jacob will be fine, he sounds like a trooper. You and your husband just need to make sure that you are processing things in a healthy, strengthening way. An extraordinary child can place stress on a marriage. Don’t be afraid to talk openly with each other, and with a third party when helpful. Been there, done that – many times:)

    Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing.


  3. Sustenance for cerebration (food for thought – see 9/24 blog), especially points 1. and 2. for me.

    We surely can’t know what God will allow in our lives. I think it honors Him when we pull up our socks and deal with it positively.

    Love and shouts of encouragement to all the Spragues, especially Caedmon: Buddy, you were AMAZING in the Therasuit 15th day video!


  4. Ryan, you are such a good articulator. My daughter struggles a lot with the sensitivity of being the mother of a special needs child…not really understanding why everyone doesn’t see Emerson as she sees her … perfect. I work at the Down Syndrom Assoc with a woman who has an adult son with CP; I have shared your blog with her. She formerly worked at UCF and is very resourceful in the world of special needs, especially transitioning into the adult/independent world. I am so glad that you have moved back near Jeni’s family; I have found that I am so much different as a grandparent than I was as a parent (ie, less critical, more laid back, more accepting of the child and those around him/her). I am doing a bible study on discerning the voice of God; the primary point is expectation. I believe that is what He wants us to do as parents/grandparents also: expect great things from our children, expect God to guide us as we raise them. You and Jeni are doing a great job. Love to you all.

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