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Exploring Human Potential

Celebrate The Good!

Posted on | August 5, 2021 | 4 Comments

Mike Magee

A week ago, I came across this photo on Linkedin posted as part of a message from Mary Bardin, a Senior Services Manager at Sunbeam House Services, an Irish firm from Bray, County Wicklow.

I shared her post, and added the words, “Celebrate the good!”

In the week that followed, 49 others “liked” my post, which is my equivalent of “going viral.” As I watched those numbers climb, three questions emerged. First, who were the two people in this photo with missing left forearms, and how did they come to connect? Second, what caused me and others to react positively to this image? Three, does this image carry a message for Americans, some hidden instruction how to manage our current reality?

1) Who are they?

In the summer of 2017, Colleen and Miles Tidd were told that their third child would be born without a left forearm. Colleen later reported that she cried at first, but not for long. They had two other children, girls age 2 and 12, to consider. In preparation for their son Joseph’s birth, they reached out to an advocacy organization, “Lucky Fin”, for information and support. The name derives from the 2003 Disney classic, “Finding Nemo”, and its’ animated star clownfish, Nemo. He was born with one short fin, the result of a barracuda attack that killed his mother and sister, and cracked his egg while he was still in development. The little fish was left with an over-protective father who, out of fear, tried to limit his future. Nemo resisted and found his strength and purpose, in part, by redefining what other sea creatures saw in him. They saw a unfortunate fish with an abnormally shortened limb. He saw adventure ahead, powered by his “lucky fin.”

This was just the kind of messaging Molly Stapelman was looking for in 2007 when her healthy baby girl, Ryan, was born with “her right hand stunted, her palm small and no fingers except a tiny thumb.” Three years later, she launched “Lucky Fin” stating that, “A child being born with a limb difference is not tragic. It’s extremely important to show our children how capable & wonderfully made they are. If we treat them as flawed or limited that is who they will believe themselves to be- and that would be the tragedy.”

Colleen and Mike Tidd, in turn, discovered Molly’s organization, and with the encouragement of Joseph’s sisters, who loved the Disney movie, reinforced the hidden power of his own “lucky fin.” His parents took the personal campaign one step further. They began to document their son’s adventures on an Instagram page called “tiddbit_outta_hand.”

Carson Pickett, the soccer star, has her own story. She was born in 1994 near Jacksonville, Florida, with a missing left forearm, nearly identical to Joseph (nicknamed Joe-Joe) Tidd. Her parents, Treasure and Mike, were former college sports stars, committed to expanding rather than limiting their daughter’s horizons. Carson’s mantra became, “Control what you can control”, her own variation of Nemo’s famous, “Just keep swimming.” At age five, her father introduced her to soccer and she never looked back. She was a standout at Florida State University, and was drafted by the National Women’s Soccer League team, Seattle Reign. In 2018, she was part of a three-person trade to the NWSL’s Orlando Pride.

Colleen and Mike Tidd immediately took notice. Joe-Joe and Carson were both born in Florida, loved soccer, were athletic, and had partially formed left arms. Their limb defects placed them among 2,250 U.S. babies born each year with the condition. By the time their photo was taken in April, 2019, Joe-Joe was 21 months old and had taken to wearing a purple Pride jersey with Carson’s #16 on the back.

2) What’s in an image?

The famous photo was taken by Joe-Joe’s mother at a home game in 2019 when Carson jogged over to the family after hearing their cheers. As reported, “She repeatedly tapped her arm against his as he shrieked with glee.” After the game, the two spent time in the locker room playing their version of peekaboo – pulling up their shirt sleeve to expose their left arms. As Colleen recounted, “It took a minute for him to realize, ‘Wow, we’ve got the same arms,’ and then he just giggled. You could see it hit him, and then they were best friends after that…She’s like me.”

When they arrived home, Colleen posted the photo on “tidbit_outta_hand”. Why? She said, “It’s just showing that he might be unique, but he’s no different than anyone else. He’s going to be able to accomplish it all.”

Since then, that photo has touched many others, especially those isolated by the pandemic, or caught in the throes of America’s political upheaval. For all of them, Nemo’s “Just keep swimming”, or Carson’s “Control what you can control”, or Joe-Joe’s ecstatic response to “Reach out and touch”, speak of persistence, resilience, endurance, common humanity – and yes, goodness.

3) What is the message for us?

The emotional journey of the past few years has touched all Americans. Fear and worry have had a corrosive effect on our society, and isolation added fuel to the fire. But challenges also carry with them enlightenment. Joe-Joe’s father Miles said it best. “Carson knelt down next to Joseph and showed him her arm. It was this instant bond we can’t begin to understand.”

A human connection can be very powerful and healing. For Miles and his wife that connection extended to Carson’s parents, Treasure and Mike Pickett. Their advice: Never allow the words, “I can’t.” Carson added, “People might not treat you the right way or they may stare at you. But the way that you treat people is going to go way further than anything else.”

The image has a power all its own. Renewing contact in the middle of the pandemic’s Delta variant surge isn’t easy. Keep swimming. Fighting intentional waves of deliberate misinformation designed to sow division and distrust is discouraging. Control what you can control. Deliberate efforts to disenfranchise or deny or destroy other human beings is disheartening. Celebrate the good and embrace the future.

You never know. The greater good may be just around the corner. Ask Carson Pickett. She’s 27 now, and her Orlando team was sidelined when several members tested positive for Covid, eliminating them from playoff’s. Around the same time, there was a knock on her door, with a package containing an easy entry shoe with a wrap-around strap closure in lieu of laces. The Phantom GT Academy FlyEase was her shoe – literally.

She had teamed up with Nike, and this shoe held special meaning. She recalled “I saw my younger self. I looked at it and it almost brought me to tears because it’s just awesome to see something that would’ve really helped me when I was younger. ”

You never know. “Ever since I got to the pros and seeing how many amazing messages I get sent about how I inspire people, some who aren’t even soccer players,” she said. “[Seeing that] just showed me that I can do so much more than just be a good soccer player, and that I could advocate for something much bigger than soccer.”

Comments

4 Responses to “Celebrate The Good!”

  1. Beth Ferro Mitchell
    August 9th, 2021 @ 8:48 am

    Thanks Mike,

    That was a great way to start the week, just as advertised. I’ve been enjoying your posts during the pandemic…and I’m still hoping to get you back to Le Moyne for a talk…once we get COVID-19 under better control.

    Best,
    Beth

  2. Mike Magee
    August 9th, 2021 @ 9:13 am

    Thanks, Beth. Wishing all of you the very best. Hope to see you soon! Mike

  3. John C Jack Lewin MD
    August 9th, 2021 @ 12:26 pm

    Loved your positive message, inspiration, and leadership once again and always.

  4. Mike Magee
    August 9th, 2021 @ 1:59 pm

    Thanks, Jack!

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