There once was a time twenty years ago that I was working with the disabled at a special little place called the Kansas Jaycees Cerebral Palsy Ranch.  Located halfway between Augusta and El Dorado, it provided a special place for the handicapped to come and spend a week during the summer.  That year, I worked as a counselor.  I had no experience working with the disabled.  I was there because of a girl.  She inspired me to give it a try.  
It was a monumental leap for me.  Headed out on my own finally for the first time, a year after my sister’s death from cancer, I had a lot to prove.  It was May, June, and part of July.  It was a lot of heartbreak getting to know the campers in a few days and then saying goodbye to them every Friday,  and then doing it all again the next week.  It was plenty of despair working alongside the woman you wanted to marry, and then nearly ruining it by spending all that time working alongside them.  It was grueling standing out on the median at Kellogg and Rock trying to get passing motorists to donate money to keep the ranch going just a bit longer. But, it was something I did.  When you believe in something, you fight for it, no matter what. 
Over a year after that, I would be totally on my own, though.  Attending Southwestern College, finally, in 2000, I went to work on my writing. My first time out writing a screenplay, I received an award for it.  I still wrote about my time at the ranch and tried to spotlight the terrific work they did.  I wrote about it for various college newspapers at Southwestern College, Wichita State, and then at K-State.  My first novel Until August was published in 2004, and it was a fictionalized account of my time out at the ranch.  I even volunteered out there one last time in the summer of 2007, but the ranch finally closed down for good not long after. It seemed the years of neglect and abuse from the elements had finally taken their toll.  I went out one last time with a drone camera last year and made a little video showing what was left of the ranch.  It was truly a haunting experience seeing it one last time.
I still would work with the disabled one final time for Flint Hills, Inc.  I did it for nine months before succumbing to a workman’s comp injury.  Sustaining herniated discs in one’s neck and tendonitis in my left shoulder put an end to me lifting people out of their wheelchairs.  
Fortunately, despite my injuries, I am still quite able and my enthusiasm for people and telling their stories knows no bounds.  I hope you all look back to where you were however many years ago, and that you did not hesitate to go on that adventure. You only live once.   You’re going to make mistakes, sure, but it’s still going to be quite a ride.