Against all odds: Musicians who truly inspire

Yesterday, I came across someone that truly humbled and inspired me.

His name is Liu Wei, a 23-year-old Chinese man who lost both his arms in an accident when he was only 10. He plays the piano with his toes – yes, his toes! – and he made headlines when he won the “China’s Got Talent” competition on Sunday for his rendition of James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful”.

I’ve linked the video of his performance below. It’s in Chinese, but there is an English summary on YouTube.

What struck me was Liu’s determination and his fighting spirit. He started learning the piano at 19, and four years later, he can play pieces that even I with two hands can’t manage. (The only thing I can do with my toes is pick up things on the floor when I’m too lazy to bend down!)

Watching Liu perform, I could see the immense concentration on his face as he guided his feet across the keys. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to play the piano this way, but Liu does it with so much grace and determination. And at the end of the video, he says to the judges: “At least, I have a pair of perfect legs.” Wow.

He dreamt of becoming a musician, and he did. Truly amazing. My hat goes off to him.

It brought to mind another musician whom I heard about only earlier this year: Tony Melendez, a singer and songwriter who plays the guitar with his toes.

According to his biography, Tony, a Nicaraguan American, was born without arms because of the effects of thalidomide, a drug his mother was prescribed to treat her morning sickness.

Despite that, Tony became an accomplished guitarist in church, and rose to fame in 1987 when he sang and played for Pope John Paul II during the Pontiff’s visit to Los Angeles.

In the video below, Tony recollects that day. It was a really touching moment when, straight after Tony’s performance, the Pope himself climbed into the audience to embrace Tony and give him a kiss.

Tony and his band play actively today. (For the record, the band is called the “Toe Jam Band”!)

In all seriousness, though, Liu and Tony are both truly a testament to what we can accomplish if we give our heart and soul to our dreams.

Sometimes, able-bodied people like you and me take for granted the blessings we’ve been given. Liu and Tony, faced with such tremendous odds, overcame them – and more.

Like them, we should never lose sight of our dreams. No mountain is too high to conquer, once our eyes are firmly set on the summit.

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