When we first moved into our house about a year ago we planned a family get-together with my family. My brother was down from Washington with his kids plus all of my siblings that live here in Utah so we were going to have a full house for dinner and hanging out.
Jason and I certainly got a late start when it comes to having kids so most of Coleman’s cousins are age 7-21. Lots of teenagers in there. Since we didn’t have children at the time – especially not teens – we decided to buy Rock Band so that the kids would have something to do.
Little did we know that we would become obsessed with it ourselves. The first day we had it set up, Jason and I played it for about 8 hours straight and emerged from the basement blinking our bleary eyes just like you do when you come out of a movie theater. We were hooked.
That day, because Jason has no mobility in his hands and cannot move his fingers at all, he was the lead singer while I switched back and forth from the guitar and drums. However, it got me thinking about how we could help Jason be able to use the instruments – specifically the drums. After a trip to the drugstore, I came home with two thumb brace bandages that each have a loop for his thumb and then wrap around his wrist. We also added some coban (like an ace bandage except self-adhesive) to the drumsticks themselves.
With the thumb braces on each hand, we then slid the drumstick through the thumb loop. This simulated “holding” the drumstick for his quadriplegic hands. Then we wrapped some coban around the drumsticks to provide the needed resistance to hold the drumstick in place in his hands. Basically, now the drumsticks won’t slip out of the thumb loop as he rocks out.
Thus began Jason’s love affair of Rock Band. He can’t use the guitar – but you don’t need to. He is drummer extraordinaire and rocks out on a regular basis.
Here’s the amazing thing, though. Even though we have him all set up to pound on the drums, there is no way that he can use the foot-operated bass pedal. Let’s face it – he’s paralyzed. So the bass pedal is not an option unless he can convince some lucky niece or nephew (or wife) to hit it for him (which is quite boring so the wife pretty much said, “You’re on your own with that” a long time ago).
To compensate (and Jason is the kind of guy that figures out how to get around barriers in his life) he has had to become really good at rock band. If he hits all the right notes on the drums then it keeps him just high enough on the scoring level to stay in the game. Sometimes, in order to not be kicked off of the song he has to be practically perfect on the drums themselves in order to make up for not being able to hit the bass pedal.
It’s been interesting to watch him become better and better at Rock Band. Believe it or not, banging those drums actually requires a lot of effort for a quadriplegic. He basically uses all of the muscles that still function in order to pull it off. He has to work hard at balancing forward to hit the drums and it ends up being quite the cardio workout. In fact, after he started playing Rock Band, people began to comment that he was looking more fit and we decided that for a quadriplegic, the way that Jason uses it, Rock Band is like going to a gym for an able-bodied person. Go figure!
Because of the workout value as well as the entertainment value, Jason plays Rock Band quite a bit. I have been fascinated by what happens when he plays, though. When a person is good at hitting all the right notes, the crowd literally cheers you on because of your ability to rock. Unfortunately, if you don’t hit all the correct notes, your level drops lower and lower and the crowd starts to boo instead. If you’re doing badly enough, the boos get louder and you are eventually kicked off the game.
Now let’s go back to the bass pedal dilemma. Because Jason can’t hit the bass pedal, even when he hits all the correct notes on the drums, he hovers down at the bottom of the perfection meter. Almost the entire time that he is playing, he does so amid the boos and complaints of the crowd. Yet he still keeps playing. Even when it takes practically a perfect score on the drums themselves to not be kicked off, he still keeps trying.
It seems like when I listen to him play that all I can hear are the boos. But he still keeps going. He blocks out the jeers and the boos and the complaining yells from the crowd and keeps himself just above the mark by being good at the part that he actually CAN do instead of focusing on what he can’t. He doesn’t allow the crowd to discourage him – he just moves forward.
Now, I know that Rock Band is not real life. I know that it’s just a game. But still…you have to admit that it’s pretty impressive that he keeps on going even though all he hears are boos from the crowd instead of cheers. It has occurred to me more than once that it takes a lot of mental control on his part to not be discouraged and to keep moving forward even though the crowd is telling him otherwise.
What are the “Rock Bands” in your life? I think we all have crowds that sometimes cheer us on but often we are also amid crowds that are jeering and complaining and looking for us to fall. But we believe that it’s possible to overcome those crowds – to block out the negative people and move forward as we strive to reach our goals in spite of our individual abilities or our disabilities.
Resist the temptation to give in to the boos around us. I know that if we believe in ourselves we can do great things – even be a ROCK STAR like the legendary (at least in his own mind) Jason Hall.
Our nieces and nephews rockin' out with him - it's fierce down there in the basement
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