There were tears and smiles during motivational speaker Shayne Smith’s visit at a local high school on Friday.
He is a powerful storyteller who relates well to kids, including those at Maple Ridge Secondary.
The main message in 24-year-old Smith’s presentation is to follow through with your dreams, no matter what obstacles life may throw in the way.
“I’m here to change your life, or at least change your perspective of your life,” Smith told a gym full of grade 8 and 9 students.
“Why do we make fun of people who look different? Where’s the logic in that? Why focus on differences? Are we all people? Well, s..t, that seems to be all that matters,” he said from his wheelchair.
At four months old he contracted meningococcal septicemia, or blood poisoning, and was given a two-per-cent chance of surviving.
Twenty-seven surgeries later and Smith is missing both legs, one hand, and half of each finger on the other hand. But it hasn’t slowed him down.
Life can be tough. But for Smith it’s been a journey for success. Smith has accomplished a lot in his 24 years.
He carried Ontario’s flag in the opening ceremonies at the 2011 Canada Winter Games, is a Paralympic representative, and a member of the Junior National Wheelchair Basketball All Star Team.
He has even met South African President Nelson Mandela.
In 1998 he was chosen by then Ontario Minister of Culture Isabel Basset to have lunch with Mandela when the Nobel Peace Prize winner visited Toronto.
He told of how President Mandela put his hand on his shoulder and told Smith it was an honour to share a meal with him.
Coincidently, Smith is the first Canadian-born person in his family and his mother was born in South Africa.
When asked how he contracted his disease, he said he didn’t know how, but he does know why.
“Because I’m strong enough to deal with it,” Smith explained.
“Every person in this room has the strength to beat whatever challenge that they are going through. I promise you that. I swear it,” he added.
Smith told a story about one of his encounters back in October.
He met a 16-year-old girl at one of his presentations and she told him his words made her second-guess her plan to attempt suicide the following weekend.
He said he didn’t want to hear about her death.
“I would be upset. It would hurt me. I care. And I love you,” he told her.
She dived into his chest and soaked his shirt with her tears, he said. No one had ever said those three words to her in her entire life. She is still alive today.
“You never know how your kindness will save someone’s life,” he said. “There’s no limit to what people can achieve.”
Friday’s presentation was the Ontario native’s first time telling his story in B.C.
Smith teamed up with Tutor Doctor and was flown to B.C. to give inspirational speeches through the Why Factor program to three Maple Ridge schools: MRSS, Harry Hooge Elementary, and Westview Secondary.
Tutor Doctor is a worldwide tutoring service that provides individualized home-based instruction to learners of all ages.