I just watched a documentary called More Than Walking. The film was written and directed by Jonathan Sigworth, now a twenty-something student who is also a quadriplegic. Jonathan’s father, Fred, recently mailed me a DVD copy.
Back in early 2006, Jonathan’s life was typical for a 19 year old guy – albeit with a penchant for adventure and excitement. An avid cyclist, he was riding his bike to class in northern India (where he spent a semester studying), when he veered off a path, plummeting to the ground some 70 feet below. He crushed his spinal cord between the 5th and 6th vertebrae, leaving him paralyzed.
Now a quadriplegic back home in the U.S., Jonathan has turned his life around, by giving purpose to [his] pain. Almost overnight, he re-channeled his passion for extreme unicycling into a passion for wheelchair rugby. As I watched the film and listened to his story, what most captivated my heart was Jonathan’s return to the country of his misfortune, India, and to its rehabilitation hospitals and centres, where, with refurbished wheelchairs shipped from the U.S., he introduced wheelchair rugby into the facilities’ new sports therapy programs.
Krishnan and Riya, both paralyzed from swimming-pool diving accidents, are among Jonathan’s pupils. Navin, Rahul and others are seen with family, taking morning strolls, and racing around in chairs well into the night. What these budding quadriplegic athletes once thought impossible – physical activity and greater independence – is now within reach, thanks to Jonathan’s outreach efforts in India. In giving back to those who saw him through his darkest hours, Jonathan illustrates the power of healing oneself through (and with) the healing of others.
The film begins with this dedication: In memory of those disabled who have ended their own lives for lack of hope. By the end, Jonathan’s wish is clearly stated, not just for himself but for all those touched by injury: Our goal is something more than walking; it’s living, forgiving, and loving more deeply than we ever did before.
I am grateful to Fred for having introduced me to his son’s story and mission. Many quadriplegics around India are living happier and more physically active lives in large part due to Jonathan’s generosity, his sharing and encouraging spirit, his ambition to teach and support others. His journey, clearly, has not been in vain.
For more information about Jonathan’s journeys back to India and his advocacy on behalf of quadriplegics, visit: http://www.escip.org/escip.org/Home.html and http://www.escip.org/escip.org/Travel_Blog/Travel_Blog.html. Jonathan’s friend George is also blogging about their current India tour, at http://www.morethanwalking.blogspot.com/.