Sooner or later, hardship and hurt find us all.
For a little boy named Dirk Thompson, the tough stuff showed up in his third year of living and stuck around with a vengeance.
“They said, ‘Oh 3-year-olds don’t have strokes’,” recalls Dirk’s Mom, Keri Owens from her home in League City.
They were wrong.
Dirk’s brain was starved of oxygen, not enough to kill him, but enough to do some serious damage, the permanent kind.
A paralysis left him with both a limp and a renegade left arm he would never control.
With school, came uncaring classmates and an excruciating degree of cruelty.
“They would walk kind of like I walked, kind of hobbled over and they would hold their hand up up in the air like my hand and they would just do that all the way to the bus,” remembers Dirk.
For a kid who deeply craved acceptance, the constant mockery was soul crushing.
“Why me God? Why would you choose me to have to carry this for the rest of my life. It’s awful. I can’t relate to anybody,” says Dirk of the experience.
Immersed in self-loathing, Dirk sought escape descending for years into the numbing darkness of drugs, alcohol and on track, by all accounts, for a death before his time.
“You’d run out and you didn’t know where he was or whether he would come back and a real strong fear he would commit suicide because I knew how low he was and didn’t feel like he had anything to offer,” recalls Dirk’s Mom.
“I said God, just end this now. You can send a lightening bolt and just do this. Just go for it. That was rock bottom],” explains Dirk.
Turns out that “higher power” Dirk had so often hated, offered a different path, a chance to transform a crippling weakness into a force of extraordinary strength.
For Dirk Thompson, the time had come to put “Lefty” to work.
Step 1: Learn to play guitar with one hand better than most folks do with two.
Step 2: Transform the stroke damaged limb you’d once considered sawing off from an enemy into a life-long friend.
“He’s like having a two year old attached at my shoulder. I have absolutely no control of him what so ever,” explains Dirk with a smile.
It’s proven a partnership aimed at engaging others through shared suffering and the offer of a re-traceable road map to both redemption and relief.
“What’s your Lefty? Maybe your Lefty doesn’t look like mine, but we all have one. We all fall short,” says Dirk while speaking to a week night crowd at a church in Humble.
“He made us just the way we are! He made me just the way I am!” exclaims Dirk to a rapt audience.
It’s a message Dirk Thompson takes everywhere he goes.
“If you can learn to deal with adversity, turn it around and use it for good. That’s your story,” he says on his web site Whatsyourlefty.org.
At a youth camp in California, a strawberry haired beauty from “Down Under” liked what she heard and in time, turned “Lefty and me” into three.
“I love that kids come up to him after every talk he’s done and say ‘I’ve been through this or that and you’ve really helped me’. He can do anything. There’s nothing that he can’t do,” says Dirk’s wife Liz Thompson who lends her singing voice to her husbands one-handed guitar stylings.
Not long ago, a surgeon offered to “relax” Lefty with a few a skilled slices of a scalpel.
“No thanks,” Dirk said.
The way he sees it, true friends never silence their allies, and Lefty he figures, has so many more kids to reach and to teach.
Dirk and Liz recently left the states for an extended stay in Australia, but plan to return sometime next year and spread their message to any audience willing to listen.