Growing up in a small town balances the scales of life on the good side according to a motivational speaker who visited Bentley School recently.
Alvin Law spoke to students at the elementary school Thursday morning, and his talk, which was somehow amusing, inspirational, serious and thought provoking all at the same time, was made even more so because the speaker has no arms.
“I’m so glad I grew up in a small town,” he said, referring to his hometown of Yorkton, Saskatchewan. “I know some of you would like to live in Edmonton or Calgary, but you need to know that you are very lucky to live in a small town like Bentley.”
Law has an engaging sense of humor and a smile that easily reaches his eyes.
During his hour-long presentation, he seemed to have no trouble holding the students’ attention in a way that effortlessly crossed invisible generation gaps and squashed any unseen elephants who may have been lurking in the room.
The 52-year-old Saskatchewan native was born without arms in the summer of 1960. His birth defect was a tragic result of his mother taking Thalidomide, a morning sickness drug readily available at that time.
His birth parents were told to give their baby up as the child would never be able to live independently.
He was taken in by foster parents who were both in their 50s and took in neglected and abused children. When Alvin was handed over to them, he was sickly and deformed.
However, having no arms did not get him out of tasks like doing dishes, vacuuming and shoveling snow.
He did them and he did them the only way he could.
He used his feet for hands.
“Some people like to blame everyone else for their misery,” he said, adding that how you see yourself is much more important than how other people see you.
“I can’t change how other people see me. I can only change how I see myself.”
Law concluded his talk with a story about how he learned to play the trombone.
He told the students about how his mom received a phone call telling her that her son had scored 96 per cent in a music aptitude test.
He said his mom listened to the teacher saying Alvin should play in the school’s marching band and he could have his choice of instruments on which to learn.
His mom listened politely, but finally told the teacher there was a problem.
“Alvin, sort of, kind of, has no arms,” she said.
The teacher was embarrassed and apologized for calling, but the story didn’t end there. The teachers talked among themselves and decided to give the boy a chance to play.
“I couldn’t believe my good fortune,” he said. “I thought, oh wow, I can play in the band, but, big question, how am I going to march?”
Law said he practiced the trombone a minimum of two hours every night after school and eventually was considered to be the best high school jazz trombonist in Canada.
Music, for Law, became a major focus opening doors he never dreamed possible.
Although trombone was his first instrument of choice, by the time he was 16-years-old he was playing drums in front of appreciative audiences.
Law concluded his talk by playing a beautiful piece he had composed himself on the keyboard.
“You wonder why I’m smiling,” he said. “I called the piece, “Ode to the old bag who said my toes were too short (to play the piano).”
His parting words to the students were simple and to the point.
“Remember, there is no such word as can’t.”
Law created AJL Communications Ltd in 1988 and became a full-time professional speaker.