10:37:11 pm on
Sunday 14 Jul 2024

The Wisdom Sticker
David Simmonds

I was amused when I read the other day of the wisdom sticker Pope Francis hangs on his office door. The sign, translated a little roughly from the Italian, reads, “No whining.” The goes on to note, “Violators are subject to a syndrome of always feeling like a victim and the consequent reduction of your sense of humour and your capacity to solve problems.

“The penalty is doubled if the violation takes place in the presence of children. To get the best out of yourself, concentrate on your potential and not on your limitations. Stop complaining and stake steps to improve your life.”

Such a folksy message posted by a Pope.

I’m impressed that the Pope would put such a folksy message on his door when there are so many inspirational quotes available in the scriptures. At least be didn’t try to quote baseball great Stan Musial, who said, “When a pitcher's throwing a spitball, don't worry and don't complain, just hit the dry side like I do.”

Still, a cynic might say, and, I must say this was my own first reaction to the wisdom posted by Pope, that it’s easier to say these things to other people than to live by that admonition yourself. This is especially true if you’ve had some experiences, such as childhood abuse, impoverishment or the trauma of war, which would leave you with every reason to be embittered. Some people derive their sense of self-worth from their embitterment. Who are we to say that they aren’t justified in doing so?

Then I heard a rebroadcast on the CBC radio programme, “Day 6,” of an interview with Mohammed Sayed. Sayed spent his early childhood in Afghanistan, until a bomb crushed his spine and taken to hospital by his family. They never came back for him.

Sayed spent seven years in hospital, undergoing multiple surgeries and, at the end of it all, remained paralyzed and alone. He made an income for himself by tinkering with cell phones used by staff and patients. Then a nurse, from the US, befriended him, adopted him at age twelve and brought him to Boston to live with her and receive further treatment.

Mohammed Sayed, now twenty years old, didn’t sit still. He notice a lack of product controlled directly by the wheelchair user. He invented his own device to contain a cup holder, tripod and sun canopy, that is 3d printable, magnetized and customizable.

His efforts secured him an invitation to the 2015 White House science fair and a meeting with President Obama. He also won a scholarship to a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) school founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Then his adoptive mother took him to a comic-con, which opened another new door for him.

There were no super-heroes with a disability.

Sayed noticed the lack of heroes with a disability and of diversity in hero characters. Thus, he decided to create his own superhero; his alter ego, a disabled, Muslim immigrant. "I'm proud to identify myself with those characteristics because this is a true example of saying to the world, 'You can go through horrible things in your life but you can still move on,'" said Sayed.

Using his belief that, it’s most important to ”focus on how to make the future better,” Sayed teamed up with illustrator, Arielle Epstein, to produce a comic book hero called “Wheelchair Man.” Using his wheelchair as a sidekick, with powers of its own, the wheelchair can fly and turn invisible and cannot do anything that damages the world, Wheelchair Man has the power to bring peace to the world and make potential wrongdoers see the consequences of their crimes before they commit them. Sayed says traditional superheroes end up destroying the world in order to save it, which sends the wrong message to children. His message focuses, instead, on peace, challenging the status quo and the fact that a superhero can be a real person.

The comic book has been a smash hit. Now rolling out, in a second book, is a complete cast of Wheelchair Avengers, including “Wheelchair Woman,” “Wheelchair Boy,” “Wheelchair Girl” and “Captain Afghanistan.” Each will take responsibility for making a part of the world a better place.

No whining may be hardest challenge of all.

This brings us back to the Pope’s wisdom sticker. “No Whining” humorously addresses one of life’s hardest challenges: to move beyond, but not necessarily to forget or fail to learn from, the misfortunes of the past and concentrate on building a positive future. Some people may be just too broken to do that. They are nonetheless heroes for having undergone their battles. Those that rise above their adversity, as does Mohammed Sayed, deserve to recognition as superheroes.

I hope the Pope has seen a copy of “Wheelchair Man,” and he has duly signed up for a copy of volume two, entitled “Captain Afghanistan.”


Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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