Lena Maria Klingvall is a true inspiration.
I’ve read in the newspapers about her, but I guess in the newspapers she’s just one of the many news stories.
In fact she is the only non-news story.
I met for the first time “live” Lena Maria Klingvall at the TED2009. I saw her profile in the TED book, but actually did not understand to a full extent who she is.
It is difficult to understand it, if you have not seen her, and have not listened to the truly exceptional speech she gave at TED (hope it will be released soon at the official site).
Here’s some information, which I humbly ask you to read, and think over and over again:
Lena Maria Klingvall was born 1968 without arms and with only one healthy leg, the other one half developed. She walks with an artificial leg. The cause of the disability is unknown.
Lena Maria learned how to swim when she was only three years old. At age 18, she entered the National Swedish Games where she won three silver medals and earning her a place on the national team. Many competitions followed. Lena Maria set two national records in the 25-meter and 50-meter butterfly events. The highlight of her swimming career was the Paralympic Games 1988 in Seoul, South Korea.
1987-1991 Lena Maria studied at The Royal University College of Music in Stockholm with one of Sweden’s most talented artists Lena Ericsson as a singing teacher. Since her examination Lena Maria has been touring as a singer in Sweden as well as abroad. She sings jazz, pop, gospel as well as classic. She has made concert tours to USA, Canada, Russia, Latvia, Belarus, Norway, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.
Lena Maria has released 14 CDs, of them 7 in Sweden. The CDs has a miscellaneous repertoire and some of the songs Lena Maria has composed herself. During the years 1999 to 2003 Universal Music in Japan released five CDs called “Heartfilled”, “In Your Delight” and a mini Christmas CD “Season Of Joy”, “Every Little Note” and “Amazing Grace”.
She joked on stage, that she was born “hands-free”. For anyone, who has used this term, it now has a new meaning. I personally can’t use it, without not only remembering about her, but also mentioning it in a conversation.
We, who are born with hands and arms, do not understand what it means to be without any. We could say, “how difficult it will be, if not impossible”, to live without them, but we actually don’t know it.
Lena Maria didn’t have a choice – she had to live, and manage on her own. The moment, when she designed a stick with a hook at the end, and asked someone to make it for her, changed her life, she said. It allowed her to get dressed on her own, and thus she became more independent.
Lena Maria was lucky – she was born in Sweden. During her TED presentation she said, that should she has been born in Asia, she wouldn’t be able to do what she’s doing now. Sadly, I have to add, if she was born in Bulgaria, that would have been the case, too.
In Bulgaria it seems we don’t like people with disabilities, that’s why we keep our cars parked on the sidewalks – so that the wheelchairs would not move there. For that matter, we seem to hate young Moms with strollers, as they also can hardly walk on the streets. The bad thing is that certain politicians also contribute to this behavior – by molesting or harassing people with disabilities, as I found out recently. As we say in Bulgaria, the fish starts to smell from the head. But, enough with the Bulgarian politicians.
Let’s move to the spirit of a Person (with a capital “p”)
Lena Maria is a clear example that the only limits people have are the limits people build for themselves. I am happy I met her, and managed to talk to her. I only write (for the time being) as a way to express my feelings, and that’s why I will keep on writing – here, or in articles in Bulgaria, about Lena Maria, and her incredible, almost unbelievable story. It is a story of human spirit in its pure form, which one can not see that often.