I was a lawyer in my mid-thirties when I stood with Rob and his wife, Jennifer, in front of a plot of land. He was disabled; in fact, he had been in a wheelchair for over ten years, and they were drawing on social security benefit. They told me they had a dream to build a holiday center for disabled people. Rob said, “I want to build an adventure park for disabled kids. Kids in wheelchairs need to take risks, as much as other kids, even if they fall out of the wheelchair once in a while”.
I asked them how much money they had; they told me it was almost nothing – certainly nowhere near enough to even contemplate such a project. I warned them about having unrealistic goals. They were disappointed but polite and thanked me for my advice and time.
Perhaps I’d annoyed them, but the second they left my office they got started on their dream.
She got a job as a nurse; he began making furniture and selling it to friends and family. Eventually they bought a tiny terraced house that was, in the estate agent’s language, ‘ in need of some modernisation’. They lived on a pittance and used every penny to improve their new property. They worked on that house night and day and eventually sold it for a good profit. Afterwards, they bought a piece of land and begged and borrowed materials, advice and help from whoever would give it. They designed and built a house in which disabled and able people could could live together in comfort. A major magazine ran regular features as the property progressed. After three years, they sold it and ploughed the money straight into their dream.
We sometimes say that we know where we were when we heard the news of certain deaths – think of John F. Kennedy or Princess Diana, for instance. I was in a corner shop when I got the news that Rob died. It’s true that he died too young – but not before thousands of kids had spent holidays on the farm he created just for them; not before they had fed the chickens, milked the cows and occasionally fallen out of their wheelchairs on the adventure course; not before the government appointed him as an adviser on houses and programs for disabled people; and not before he saw – and caught – his dream!