What I Learned About Never Giving Up Over Coffee

As I sat down with Eric over coffee, I asked him what message he hopes his story communicates. Without hesitation he said “Never give up, I want to inspire people to never give up”.

You see, Eric was diagnosed with a rare eye disorder as a child. Doctors didn’t expect him to make it out of the hospital. He’s now 59. At one point he was completely blind. He suffered a massive stroke and wasn’t expected to be able to speak again, yet here we are talking over coffee. He understands what “Never giving up” means. He understands struggle.

Yet, Eric is one of the most optimistic people I’ve ever met. And one of the most determined. He told me after his stroke, he considered recovery as the only option he would accept. He said if it took starting all over, he would. And that’s exactly what it took. He had to re-learn everything, including how to speak.

But he said something to me that stung. Even as I’m writing this it still stings. He said, “Brent I have to work 10 times harder than everyone else just to connect with people, to communicate, to win people over”. I had to pause for a moment. What an idea to think about. The idea of connecting with other people is something we can so easily take for granted. Goodness, what if we all worked 10 times harder to connect and understand the people around us. How different would our world be?

From chatting with Eric it was clear he had an amazing ability to see the good in others. The more we talked I understood how he saw people, even how he saw me. He saw every person he interacted with as an opportunity to build a friendship. When he was telling me his schedule for the week, it made my head spin. In fact, he had to leave our chat for another meeting, on a Saturday! But during our talk, he was focused entirely on investing in me, in being vulnerable about his life. And vulnerability is tough.

Being vulnerable with someone you know well is one thing. But talking about the most difficult pieces of your life with someone you just met? That’s kind of terrifying, but honestly, why should it be? How else can we leave our mark on people if we don’t let them see the full picture of who we are?

Eric has dedicated his life to this concept. The concept of helping others through showing them what’s possible with his own life, all aspects of it. He shared the ‘wins’ in his life with me, but also the hard parts of living with disabilities. He was clear on one thing though, he is not handicapped. He wanted me to know people with disabilities are just as capable of experiencing the fullness of life as anyone else.

He told me he had been instrumental in passing more than 10 pieces of legislation in his home state of Arkansas, served under three Governors and one presidential appointment, all supporting people with disabilities. He wants people to understand the impact we have on others depends less on what we’re gifted with and more on how we use those gifts.

In our time together I was inspired to re-think how I’m using my time with people. Am I intentional? Do I show the same appreciation in connecting with others that Eric showed me? Eric’s message of ’never giving up’ was certainly a theme he lived out. It is a mindset he clearly applies to everything he does. It was easily observable. 

It certainly makes me think, how many of us have a theme to our life. One that could be picked up on instantly over a cup of coffee. After a one hour conversation with a stranger, would someone understand what our life was about. Or would they walk away with surface level information, never truly understanding who we are?

Eric, thank you for being an amazing example of how we should invest in others, thank you for our coffee chat, and thank you for letting me share your story!

~ Brent

About Author

Brent is an expert in marketing and creating engaging digital content. He loves writing, reading, podcasting, and learning. In his spare time he enjoys traveling, serving in his Church, and photography. He is an aspiring sky diver who dislikes jumping out of planes. He is a tiny-house enthusiast, who gets claustrophobic. He values growth, leadership, and kind people.

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