You’re Not Your Label | Alvin Law | Goalcast

You’re Not Your Label | Alvin Law | Goalcast

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(drum beating rapidly)
– What happened to you? Can you imagine how long ago I got tired of answering that question? But the fact of the matter
is, my physical form, my story, is indeed part of
the very powerful message that I believe surrounds attitude. I was on a plane goin’ to
Vegas a couple a weeks ago, and a lady was sitting
beside me on the plane. The plane took off, she
seemed to be uncomfortable. That’s not uncommon. All she did was look at me and go, “One word, thalidomide?” Thalidomide was never meant
to be given to pregnant women. In fact, it was a sedative,
and it was supposed to be so safe, they thought that
anybody could take it. Now, the drug was banned
in 1963, thank God, because it by then had only
deformed over 20,000 babies. It could have been hundreds of thousands had the drug continued to live on. Now, it’s interesting because this is what she went on to say. “I didn’t take those pills. “Something told me to
throw them in the garbage. “And I am so glad I did
because I was blessed “with healthy, normal babies.” The point is, thalidomide was
a terrible, terrible thing, but that’s not how I see
it in my own personal life. My life started in a
very unorthodox fashion. There is no question that
being born without arms is not something people
would wish for, right? They called us the victims. I disagree. August 23rd, 1985, was
the first time in my life I ever considered how
my own mother and father must have felt the
first time they held me. And then it occurred to me an
even more powerful thought, my mum was 55 years old
the first time she held me, and my dad was 53, and I was an orphan in Yorkton, Saskatchewan,
because my birth family were consulted and counseled and advised to simply sign papers and
give me up, because in 1960, babies born with severe
handicaps had no life. So on the fourth day of
my life, I was homeless. Enter my life, the changers, Hilda Law, Jack Law. So Hilda was my primary caregiver. Hilda had an attitude that is very difficult for me to describe. She saw something that nobody else saw, and that was, yes, indeed,
a positive potential. They loved me, they took me
home, they were charitable, they were very, very
powerful in their faith, but not one time did I
view them as nice, okay? I had to make my bed every
morning before school. I had to pick up my toys
every night before bed. I had to vacuum the
carpet three times a week ’cause Mother expected neatness. Wondering every day,
do you really love me? I knew that I would not
easily climb Mount Everest. I knew there were certain things that were impossible for me. And then one day, I found a piano. And that (plays piano chords) was huge. I’m looking at my feet,
I’m watching the piano, I’m thinking, I’m gonna suck at this, too. That’s how I felt! But Mum heard me play,
and she came racing down to the basement, and
she’s, “Was that you?” I gave the standard 10-year-old answer, Do you see anybody else down here? And then she made me play it again! And then she stood
behind the piano crying. I would ask my mother,
in fact, quite frankly, it was the week she met my son, why did you cry behind the piano that day? She said, “You don’t
really understand, do you?” What? “How hard it was to be with you every day, “to see the looks, to see the
stares, to hear the insults. “But more than anything,
the hardest part, Alvin, “was to push you beyond belief. “It was within every
illogical thought in my brain “to not do that to you, to not force you, “to not challenge you, to
not take you to extremes, “that people thought I was cruel with you. “Do you have any idea what that felt like? “That’s why I cried.” (phone rings) “Hello, Mrs. Law, my
name is Blaine McClary. “I’m the band director for
the Yorkton City Band Program. “Do you have a son named Alvin?” “We do.” “Does Alvin have a talent for
music that you’re aware of? “Do you think he’d like
to be in the band?” “Well, Mr. McClary, probably a good time “time to tell you that (laughs) “Alvin sort of has no arms. “Hello?” (phone receiver clanks) But when I walked in the
house and saw my mum smiling in 1971, I’ll never forget that smile, I’ll never forget that day. She had a great smile,
ugly teeth, great smile. She goes, “Honey, I got news for you! “You’re gonna be in the band!” (inhales sharply) What band? “School band!” Well, how’d that happen? “I don’t know, we’re
gonna go to the school “and find out, right now. “Get in the car, we’re
goin’ to the school.” On the way to the school,
she told me about the first phone call that happened
six weeks earlier. She didn’t tell me about
it ’cause the guy hung up, didn’t wanna hurt my feelings. And then she said, “But he
called back this morning! “He says he’s got an
instrument for you to play! “A trombone!” A trombone, for God’s sake! And like a game show host, he went, “What do you think?” I was 11, what do you think I thought? It was the stupidest lookin’ thing I’d ever seen in my entire life! “Well, can you move the
slide with your foot?” Yeah, I can do that, wow,
I can do that, that’s cool. “Can you make this
noise? (lips sputtering) “Okay, good, can you
do in the mouthpiece?” And it was like, yeah. (lips sputtering) All this noise came out! Ah! 11-year-olds love noise, don’t they? But I particularly was
affected, I loved that sound! Just the feeling! That day changed the pathway of my life. What really changed my world? Was it the trombone? Not exactly.
(drum beat resonates) The girls didn’t wanna date me ’cause they couldn’t quite
grasp holding onto this. That’s what makes my wife,
Darlene, that much more special. She doesn’t see the outside. She sees the human, and
there is a difference. My life in music is what changed it all. (drum beats resonate) Music taught me that life does not change in one day, in one week, in one year. It takes steps after step after
step after step after step. (drum beats rapidly) All right, you can clap
at that if you’d like. (audience applauding and cheering) Why did I just do that? To show off? Yeah! To impress you? Yeah! I wanna impress you! ‘Cause of my ego? No. No, see that was the most important thing that I learned in my professional life. In my opinion, and it is
my opinion, you earn joy. It is not a human right. You attain success. I got a label, it’s fixed
right on my forehead, and it used to bug me
until it occurred to me, I just have to change what the label says. That’s all I gotta do. It’s not gonna be easy,
because I’m asking society an awful lot to see the
human inside the disability, but the fact is, it took me a long time to come to that conclusion. We’ve all got labels. Let’s just change the label. Let’s change the label
from victim to victor. Let’s change the label
to one that says I am. I am who I am. (calm instrumental music)

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