In this edition of Humanize, Wesley hosts one of the people he most admires in the public sphere. Joni Eareckson Tada is an artist, an international humanitarian, a disability rights activist, a Christian evangelist, and a defender of the sanctity and equality of human life — not just in the comfort of the United States but around the world, including in places of extreme poverty and societal discord.
Tada was paralyzed from the shoulders down in a swimming accident in 1967. During her two years of rehabilitation, according to her autobiography Joni, she experienced anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, and religious doubts. However, during occupational therapy, she learned to paint with a brush between her teeth and began selling her artwork. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.
To date, Tada has written over forty books, recorded several musical albums, starred in an autobiographical movie of her life, and is an advocate for people with disabilities She founded Joni and Friends in 1979, an organization to “accelerate Christian ministry in the disability community” throughout the world. In 2007 the Joni and Friends International Disability Center in Agoura Hills, California, was established which runs a multi-faceted non-profit covering a number of program outlets.
It this emotional conversation, Joni recounts how a young man in her rehabilitation center changed her life, shares her thoughts on art and beauty. She describes the “Wheels for the World” project that distributes wheelchairs to the developing world. And she discusses how her faith in God literally upholds her through suffering nights of severe chronic pain, bringing her as the sun rises, to a new day a better person than she was the night before. It is an inspiring and truly uplifting conversation with one of the most optimistic and self-giving public personalities active in the country today.