This past October, my wife and I journeyed to one of our favorite places in America — New England. Our annual fall foliage trips have become a seasonal tradition and last year we visited the only New England state we had never explored — Rhode Island.
We stayed in Newport, or the “City by the Sea,” as it’s known to those who reside there. This welcoming coastal town founded in the 1600s is known for its classic “cottages” built by some of the nation’s wealthiest families such as the Vanderbilts and the Astors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
So, after getting our fill of how the other half lived, we moved on, at my wife’s insistence, to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Located in downtown Newport, this unique museum contains impressive interactive exhibits and the history of tennis throughout the world featuring photos, clothing and equipment from times past.
One of the exhibits that captured my attention was centered around the life of American tennis great Doris Hart (Ok, I’ll admit it — I had never heard of her). But aside from the impressive victories on the tennis court, Ms. Hart had quite a backstory.
In 1951, Hart was ranked Number 1. She was the fourth player and only the second woman in tennis history to win a career Grand Slam in women’s singles and she was just one of three women to have won a “boxed set” of Grand Slam titles, meaning every possible title including singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles from four Grand Slam tournaments.
But what impressed me the most was not necessarily her spectacular feats on the tennis court, but the fact that as a child she was stricken with osteomyelitis, a polio-like disease that as a child of 10 left her with a crippled right leg.
Because of her impairment, her brother encouraged her to take up tennis for the exercise her body needed.
So strong was Hart’s determination and courage despite the adversity she suffered that she became a world-class tennis player who was inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1969.
Hart’s compelling story is not unlike that of the gifted British writer and journalist Judy Froshaug, who has written for a variety of newspapers and magazines around the world.
You see, Judy had what she referred to as a minor disability — she was born with no left hand. Simply attempting to tie her shoes, cutting up her food and playing any kind of sport were all obstacles she learned to overcome with her dedicated determination.
A doctor suggested to her mother that she should be fitted with an artificial hand. Judy then laughingly loved telling the story of how she once dropped her faux hand in public. After it fell to the ground, a man who later became her husband gently picked it up, graciously bowed and with an engaging smile looked at her and said, “Madame, your glove, I believe!”
As a professional writer, wife and mother, Judy Froshaug’s writings encouraged others with disabilities to come to terms with their “warts” as she often called them.
It’s my belief that each one of us is expected to make something worthwhile of our lives despite whatever warts we may embody. It’s those like Doris Hart and Judy Froshaug who show us how it can best be done.