Fear is a common first reaction. Fear of fear may cause more problems than the actual fear itself. Fears can be real or the result of an over active imagination. Real fear makes sense and is positive. There are facts that support it. Unspecific fear can be so great that we cannot identify what the problem is or we can block offered advice.
Eleanor Roosevelt gives us sound advice: “Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’”
Ralph Braun had good reasons to be fearful. However, instead of situations of fear he saw them as opportunities that challenge. Ralph Braun was born on December 18, 1940. He was raised in Winamac, Indiana. When he was six years old, he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a disease marked by a gradual wasting and weakening of skeletal muscles. The doctors told his parents he would not live to be a teenager. They were wrong. Necessity is the mother of invention and Ralph’s physical limitations fueled his determination to live as independently as possible. He was a hard worker. At the age of fourteen, he started using a wheelchair and at fifteen he and his father created a motorized wagon to help him get around. Five years later he developed a motorized scooter called the Tri-Wheeler using parts from his cousin’s farm. The Tri-Wheeler helped him conserve energy and commute to his quality control manager job at a nearby manufacturer. When the company moved several miles away, he equipped an old mail carrier jeep with a hydraulic tailgate lift and hand controls to accommodate transporting his Tri-Wheeler. It was the first known wheelchair lift. Assembling Tri-Wheelers became a full time job and he gathered a team to help with his work and turned his parent’s garage into a workplace that evolved into BraunAbility. It was incorporated in 1972, and became a leading manufacturer of wheelchair lifts and ramps for paratransit vans and cutaway buses. They produce wheelchair accessible minivans, wheelchair platform lifts, and personal use products. What sets BraunAbility apart from other mobility product manufacturers was Ralph’s focus on providing mobility solutions that met the individual needs of each customer. He had a network of dealers across the country that evaluated individuals according to their needs, circumstances and levels of disability. Braun and his son Todd were owners of the NASCAR racing team, Braun Racing. President Obama named him a “champion of change,” an honor for his dedication to improving the lives of people with physical disabilities. Ralph was married, had five children, and was an inventor, entrepreneur, founder and CEO. Just a week before he died, Ralph was honored with the Support of the Guard and Reserves Patrol Award for his support of his employees who serve in the military. His story is told in his autobiography Rise Above. His adjustments in life were met with innovation, adaptive skills and hard work. Ralph died on February 8, 2013 in Winamac, Indiana.
If fear dominates our thoughts, we back away from it and rest in faith. Fear leads us to faith as we ruminate on the words of Jesus, “I am with you always, till the end of time.” (Mt 28:20)
Faith rooted in Jesus keeps fear in its proper perspective.