Are You a Handicap or a Blessing?



"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"

THE NEXT TIME you're tempted to complain about your life, think about Anne Rindfleisch. It might help to put things into perspective.

WHEN THIS BABY came into the world, her parents were so shocked they couldn't take her home. Family members and a social worker said the baby wouldn't live past eight years of age, and it would be better to institutionalize her from the start. The parents reluctantly agreed.

But they just couldn't keep away from her. "We missed her right away," says her father Alan. So they kept visiting, and on one of the traumatic visits, the baby's five-year-old brother looked at his sister then at his parents and exclaimed, "Weave got to bring her home!" They did. And from that day, in some ways, she began a normal kind of childhood.

ANNE IS PHYSICALLY challenged like few other human beings. She was born without arms or legs. But she was born with a fine brain and a wicked sense of humor! Within months her father constructed a kind of bucket seat so Anne could sit upright. By age three, without limbs, she was still very small, and her mother, Jean, dressed her in cuddly sack clothes. Passers by would look down at the sweet face and coo a little, but, as Anne laughs,

"You should have seen their faces when I started to talk to my mother in full sentences!"

AS A GROWING child, she loved to be in water, so Alan fitted her with a foam ring.

"My brothers would pick me up and literally toss me into the pool," she recalls, "and people would freak out thinking they were torturing me. But I'd come up and scream, 'Do it again.'"

About this age she liked to roll herself across the floor and with her teeth untie her father's shoelaces. He never objected, but only cautioned,

"If you're going to unite those shoes, you're going to have to learn to tie them." She did. It seemed there wasn't much she couldn't do.

ANNE BEGAN SCHOOL at an institution for the disabled. But she performed so well, she finally enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and flabbergasted her teachers with her insistence on complete independence. She refused help with note taking, and insisted on writing her own exams holding a pencil in her mouth.

One of her professors remembers, "She was quite extraordinary. She asked for nothing in ways of special accommodations. "

THIS STORY CAME to the press very recently when Anne visited the White House to meet President Bush as Goodwill Industries International Graduate of the Year. She works at Burlington Coat Factory in Brown Deer, WI, and runs their computer room. Chatting with coworkers about her imminent visit to Washington and the security checks, she joked, "The next thing they'll want to do is fingerprint me, and good luck,
Charlie, on that one!"

GOODWILL TAUGHT HER the skills she now employs in her work. Using a mouth stick, she records the day's shipments. She inputs 42 words a minute, that's about as fast as her old computer can operate. She takes a contract from a drawer with her stick, positions the pages with her teeth, and punches down on a stapler with her chin. She works with the speed of a magician. The phone rings, and somehow she sweeps it out of the cradle between her chin and her ear so fast it's like a karate motion. This valued worker is showing the world that given a chance, even the severely disabled, with training, can make a highly valued contribution in the work place.


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