If there is one message that every parent will hear repeatedly from their own children, over and over again when they are growing up, as if some secret society of kids had conspired to construct the mantra in order to deliberately annoy their parents, it is this: it’s not fair! But do you know something, I think that we – the parents – ought to have made that message our own mantra. It is us that should have been telling them, all along, that life is not fair.
Firstly, we should have told them that we don’t get an equal start in life. Well, of course, that was as true for you as it is for them right now. There may be many kids who got a better start than you. But you know, there were many other kids who were a lot worse off than you. Some of them were born without arms and/or legs for example, like Cornel Munn – a local kid here in my home town who has already achieved astonishing things in his young life. No we don’t all get an equal start – that’s true – it’s not fair!
Next, we should have made sure they understood that we don’t get equal opportunities in life. Perhaps you might be thinking: that’s true, because other kids in your neighbourhood had much better opportunities than you did, they went to better schools or their parents were able to afford better things for them, or something like that. But again, then as now, there are kids in parts of the world who don’t even get to go to school simply because they don’t possess a pen! That’s why, I was told when we last visited the country about twenty years ago, that the kids in Egypt prized pens so highly. No, we don’t get equal opportunities – it’s not fair!
Then, we should have let them know that we don’t have equal talent – even the Bible makes this perfectly clear. Some people seem to be extraordinarily good at everything they put their hand to whereas others don’t seem to have any natural talent or ability at all. Actually, as I often point out in my workshops, such people may have simply not discovered their natural talent, but that does not mean they don’t have, at least, some natural ability. But, there is certainly unevenness in terms of the distribution of natural ability. Some kids are child-prodigies; they are naturally gifted to an exceptional level in some area of ability. Is that fair? No it’s not!
Well, I guess I could continue to make that list, but hopefully the point has been made: life is certainly not fair. The thing is that some people never come to terms with that fact so, just like Peter Pan, they never really grow up. The mark of adulthood is an acceptance of the fact that life is not fair and a subsequent taking-on of the responsibility for where your own life will take you. It is completely accepting that we didn’t all get the same start in life and that the odds may be stacked in favour of some people who don’t realise just how privileged they are, but that the rest of the script has not yet been written.
To return to my example of Cornel Munn, he was born severely disabled, in Romania. I had the privilege of knowing his family who attended the same church as me and I remember commenting to his adopted father Ken that I felt that God had something special in mind for his son. He is, at the time of writing, just 19 years old and here are some of the things he has already achieved:
- In 2001, Cornel, aged 9 years, took part in the Blue Peter Bikeathon in aid of leukaemia research raising a total of £350 for the charity.
- In July 2003, he swam 1000 metres in 45 minutes raising £4050 for Ali Abbas and other children injured in the Iraq war.
- In March 2004, in recognition for Cornel’s fund-raising efforts, he was awarded the Pride of Britain Child of Courage Award.
- In April 2004, Worcester County Council awarded Cornel the Citizenship Award for his fund raising efforts.
- In September 2004 he was presented with the Douglas Bader Award for inspiration to others.
- In April 2005, so inspired by Cornel’s efforts, his school nominated him for the Princess Diana Memorial Award for Inspiration and Success against all odds
- The Cornel Trust was formed following Cornel’s statement at the Pride of Britain award Ceremony when he announced that his next project was to raise funds for a limb centre in Romania.
The above is not a complete list of this young man’s achievements. I know for example that he won first prize in a drumming competition. Now, this next comment may sound a bit politically incorrect, but I genuinely don’t know how else to put it: he did not win a drumming competition for disabled people; he competed against able-bodied youngsters in a national competition, and won.
Although Cornel has achieved many things in his young life so far and, no doubt, there will be many more things to come, for me, the drumming competition is a fine example of what this article, and lesson, is all about. Sure life is not fair, it’s true that we don’t all get the same start, but we do all get the same opportunity to write the script for our own lives.