I Love Life: Inspirational Speaker Jerry Traylor Overcomes Cerebral Palsy
Twelve individuals have landed on the moon. Only, one person has jogged across America on crutches. His name is Jerry Traylor, who just happens to have cerebral palsy.
“When I ran across America, my eyes were open to the giving and caring nature of this world. As I headed into the desert, a Rotarian came out and said, ‘you’re going to need my polar grade glasses to deal with the sun.’ As we headed through some snow, another guy came out and offered us a set of snow tires on our car. They just gave, gave, and gave! When you and I do great things, people want to get behind us. They want to make a difference. When you and I can provide that opportunity, it is an incredible thing.”
What really inspired Jerry to make the cross-country journey?
“I have been a public speaker for 28 years and have talked about setting goals. I really didn’t think my message was very powerful unless I started practicing the message I had been sharing with my audiences. That was really the major factor in making the trip. I asked myself, ‘what can I do to inspire me and live my message?’ instead of just making speeches.”
But, as Jerry quickly learned, the trip wasn’t without its share of difficulties and obstacles.
“There was one time near the California Nevada State line. Just three weeks after leaving San Francisco, I came down with the flu and bronchitis and couldn’t move. I was resting in the back of a small gas station fifty miles from the nearest hospital. I just lay there for six days. Just three weeks into my journey, I was six days behind my running schedule...approximately 120 miles. Following my recovery, I did a few miles extra every day and finally got back on schedule.”
In light of the many obstacles, why didn’t Jerry just throw in the towel when the going got tough?
"I did not give up because I always had a vision. Regardless of how difficult things may get, the vision is what keeps us in the game.”
Aside from jogging across America from San Francisco to New York City, a total of 3,528 miles, Jerry climbed to the top of 14,110 foot Pike’s Peak---not once, but three times on crutches.
“When you get to the top, you can see three or four states. It’s an amazing vista. As a child, I had 14 corrective operations. I wore waist high braces until I was 14. People will say---look at that guy, he’s got a lot of courage. What they’re seeing is not courage. It’s really joy. I have the opportunity and vision. I can take the steps. I was not always able too.”
Jerry’s message isn’t about overcoming a disability caused by cerebral palsy. Instead, Jerry says it’s all about discovering the pure joy in life. “Everyday, I am so thankful. We tend to look at what we don’t have. But, it is inconsequential what we don’t have. It is really essential to look at what we do have. In this country, no matter where you are, generally we have so much more than the majority of the world.”
In light of his many successes, Jerry’s real reward is touching the lives of people who haven’t realized their full potential.
“I don’t care how many finish lines I cross. I don’t care how many mountains I climb. I care about the young girl in Alaska who was getting all F’s. I told her, ‘you are so much brighter than this. You have so much potential.’ A few months later, when I heard from her, she was getting straight A’s. I believed in her and she knew it. I have learned when people believe in us, we can believe in ourselves. That’s the real key. It’s what inspires me. It’s not glory, fame or climbing another mountain. Being truly successful is about helping people identify their gifts.”
Vince Lombardi must have been thinking about the qualities of Jerry Traylor when he said, “It is time for all of us to stand and cheer for the doer, the achiever, the one who recognizes the challenge and does something about it.”