Craig MacFarlane talked to Effingham Rotary members about the importance of perseverance and helping others when he was visiting Effingham last week.
“He’s been blind since a young age,” Rotary member Jeff Hupman, who set up the visit, said. “He’s accomplished a lot in his life, more than a lot of folks that haven’t had the challenges.”
MacFarlane said he was happy to be visiting and enjoyed the much warmer weather than there is in hometown of Indianapolis.
He lost his sight because to an accident when he was 2 years old. A striker, a device used for lighting a welding torch, was being tossed around by the children in the backyard and hit the inside of his left eye. A few weeks later, he developed a disease where one eye loses sight after the other has.
“Today, they can prevent it, but they can’t cure it,” he said.
He said he attributes much of his success to his parents who supported him and encouraged him, but never pushed him.
“My parents always treated me as an equal to my brother,” MacFarlane said. “They instilled a can-do type spirit in me at a young age. I was fortunate as a kid that blindness would never stand in the way of me living a normal life.”
MacFarlane said when he was 6 he had to go to the only school for the blind in Canada at the time, which was 500 miles away from home.
“It was kind of funny, my first day at the school for the blind. I had never met another blind person in my life,” he said. “I was walking down the middle of the hall, and this kid ran into me, and I said, ‘hey, watch where you’re going’. Little did I realize there were 300 of us in the same boat.”
MacFarlane was introduced to wrestling at the school when he was 7 and later competed internationally.
“Athletics was more than winning and losing,” he said. “It taught me you’re only as good as your last performance, and isn’t that so true today in the world of business.”
He said it’s important to face the day with a positive attitude.
“I refer to that as putting your game face on,” MacFarlane said. “Putting that smile on your face before you walk out of the house to embrace some of the challenges or pressures of that particular day, granted it doesn’t get rid of them, but at least it programs us into a positive mental frame of mind (to show) we’re willing to show up and try.”
MacFarlane moved to the U.S. when he was 19. He also spoke Thursday at South Effingham Middle School “and they were an awesome group of kids,” he said.
“I look back (and) I realize how important the word ‘pride’ has been in my life,” MacFarlane said. “When I spoke at the middle school, it was a little ironic that I didn’t know until after my talk about the slogan ‘Mustang pride.’”
MacFarlane said he views the “p” in pride as perseverance, what it takes to know what to do today to achieve the goals ahead.
“Perseverance began early in my life,” he said. “As a teenager, I had built myself to the point where I was able to do those extra 500 situps and 500 pushups almost every single day, not because I enjoyed them. I never once wanted to afford people the chance to say ‘I’ll bet he lost because he’s blind.’”
He said he did not want his blindness to be considered a handicap when he describes it as “a minor inconvenience.”
He said respect is what the “r” in pride stands for, and he said many people doing extraordinary things helped him.
“My favorite has always been the "i" the individuality,” MacFarlane said.
He said he has lost count of the number of people who have told him he can’t do something because he is blind.
“There always seems to be someone trying to box or paint me into a corner by saying you’re not good enough, fast enough, strong enough, smart enough,” MacFarlane said.
MacFarlane said individuals have a choice, and he respects the group for their choice to work in the community.
He said the “d,” desire, “is measured by the size of a person’s heart.”
“I think desire becomes a way of life,” MacFarlane said.
He said everyone is blessed with desire, but must continue to have internal motivation in order to stay focused.
“The "e" in pride is the enthusiasm,” MacFarlane said, “the zest, spirit, attitude and passion for the way we live life every single day.”
MacFarlane said there is so much to be proud of and thankful for.
“I would trade in three gold medals to have what you do,” he said, “to have my eye sight, to see how beautiful the colors must be in a rainbow, to be able to see what my parents’ faces look like, something I honestly don’t remember.”
He said even on days when he is a little down he remembers that there are people less fortunate than he is, and he wants to work to help others.