For a reason I can’t even begin to understand, a friend from my youth totally popped into my head the other night. In fact, it happened as I was sleeping. This person was a friend of mine through elementary school, into junior high, and finally high school. After that, as is typical, many of us went our separate ways into our new lives.
Danny Murphy was a very special kid, and an inspiration to me even to this day. Some of my hometown friends may know Danny, so this post may bring back some great memories of a unique individual.
Danny was born with severely deformed arms. At some point, he may have explained to me what caused it, but truly, it didn’t matter. The fact was, he didn’t care, so we didn’t. Danny only had 4 fingers on each hand. He had no thumbs. One of his arms was permanently bent at a right angle. Both arms were shorter than normal, and I don’t believe there was much dexterity in either. But one arm was a bit more useful than the other. As children are, anyone with the slightest abnormality was raw meat to the bullies and the most ignorant on the playground. Yet, I don’t recall anyone ever picking on Danny.
You see, Danny had a positive attitude. He was very funny. He was so fun to be around. He was also a marvel to watch. He did everything everyone else did. He didn’t let his condition keep him from anything the so-called normal kids did.
Danny played little league baseball with us. In the field, he would put his glove on his left hand, which was the stronger and more flexible arm. Once he caught the ball, in one motion, he would take the ball out of the glove with his right hand, pull the glove off his left hand with his right armpit, grab the ball with his left hand, and throw it wherever it needed to go. It took me ten seconds to describe what took him less than a second to do. I know I couldn’t do it. It was amazing.
Danny played basketball. He made our junior high team, as a matter of fact. When he would take the court, the other team would take a look at him and assumed he would be useless out there. But Danny could shoot! I’m not talking about just little shots within a few feet of the basket. He could shoot from just about anywhere!
Danny played football. In fact, he was the place kicker in college at Sonoma State University. During his football career, Danny was selected to be the kicker for the West All Star team at the East West Shrine game at Stanford Stadium. Danny was the first, and to the best of my knowledge, only player ever to participate in the game who, at one time, was a patient of the hospital.
I have no idea where Danny is these days. In all likelihood, he doesn’t go by Danny anymore. But that’s how I knew him when we were kids. I love the fact that growing up with him, we didn’t see a kid who was deformed. We didn’t see a kid who was disabled. We didn’t see a kid who felt sorry for himself. We didn’t see a kid others felt sorry for. We saw a kid who was just a kid. His ordinary-ness was what made him extraordinary.
I know life had it’s challenges for Danny. I have to believe that adult life has presented other challenges for him. But knowing him the way I did, I am certain that he took any and all challenges, and found a way to make it work. Just like he did with the baseball, he handled everything with tremendous grace.
Just remembering Danny has brought a smile to my face this week. It’s also served to inspire me to see challenges as opportunities. Rather than assume it’s hopeless, just find a way to make it work. There was no “can’t” in Danny’s vocabulary. Even after all these years since I’ve seen or talked to Danny, he’s made me smile, laugh, and grow in determination.
Today, I celebrate and share with you the inspiring life of my boyhood friend, Danny Murphy.