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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Inspirational Profiles: Scotty Smiley and the Gift of Living Fully

  I so clearly remember the first time I heard about him. A friend at church asked us to pray for him, saying that he had been injured in Iraq and would probably lose his last remaining bit of eyesight. His name was Scotty. 
  April 6, 2005 changed Scotty's life forever. A routine patrol ended in disaster, nearly costing Scotty his life and taking away forever his ability to see. A suicide bomber and a grey car were all it took.
  When I was informed of Scotty's injury, I asked our friend to try to track down where Scotty would be recovering so that I could send him a note of encouragement. She said she would talk to her brother and sister-in-law, who knew Scotty well, and would try to get an address to me. Having recently started actively supporting military personnel and their families, I thought it was only right that I try to let a wounded soldier know that people cared. Sometime later, my friend gave me the address, and I sent a card to him. He was the first injured service-member that I ever wrote to.
  Over time, I continued to stay updated on Scotty's recovery. As circumstances later brought me much closer to my friend's brother and sister-in-law, I was able to hear how Scotty was doing, and each report surprised me beyond belief: Scotty was fighting to stay in the military and become the Army's first blind, active-duty officer; Scotty learned how to surf in Hawaii - totally blind; Scotty went back to Duke University to get his Master's; Scotty went back to teach at his alma mater, West Point. The miracles just kept coming...
  Then came the fall of 2010. I was traveling at the time and had stopped to browse through a book store and look for a new read. My grandmother had recently passed away, and I was grieving. I needed a story of hope. Shelf after shelf, nothing seemed to turn up. Then, I noticed a title that seemed to jump out at me: Hope Unseen. When I saw the author's name, I couldn't believe it - Scotty had written a book! As you can imagine, I bought the book immediately and went back to where I was staying at the time to settle in and read Scotty's story in his own words.

  Scotty has traveled a tough road since losing his sight: Scotty will never see his three children; Scotty will never see his beautiful wife, Tiffany, again. These are daily things that Scotty has had to adjust to. And yet, Scotty has hope. Scotty will tell you that his life has never been better. He has even said that he doesn't wish that he could have his sight back because his life has changed in so many positive ways. His sense of humor and ability to laugh at the situations he has to deal with sometimes allow him to find joy in a difficult reality.
  But Scotty hasn't always been this way. Shortly after the injury, Scotty was reeling from the shock of waking up in a hospital and realizing he was blind. Anger and depression were constant companions. He just wanted to give up and die. The vibrant faith in God he had always had appeared to offer him no help. He wasn't sure what he believed anymore and why a loving God would do something like this. Over time, however, he began to trust God for the things he couldn't understand and to believe in a hope unseen. Perspective came as the months of recovery progressed, and he started to embrace God's new plan for his life. He began to gain spiritual sight even though his physical sight no longer existed. As he writes in the book,
  "...I realized that I had never really committed myself fully to God's plans. I'd had my dreams and my plans and my own selfish pride. I had known God and believed in Him. I had prayed and tried to love and serve others. I had asked God to help me with my life's decisions. But I had never fully depended on God or hoped completely in Him...I had lost my way awhile back - my inability to navigate had nothing to do with my eyes and everything to do with my lack of focus on what our finite time of earth is all about."
  Reading Scotty's story brought to me some much-needed comfort and hope. As he detailed his moments of despair, I identified with him. I knew what hopelessness felt like. When he humorously described his futile attempts to learn how to function as a new dad, I laughed. When he talked about his coming to the conclusion that he needed to turn everything in his life over to God, I agreed with him. I was just learning to do the same.
  Scotty has continued to have an active life and credits the support of his family and his  renewed faith in God as the reason for his hope and joy.

 Scotty Smiley is an inspiration to many because of his friendly ways and also his acceptance of the new lifestyle he has had to learn. Scotty's challenges have allowed him to appreciate the relationships in his life and to live each day to its fullest, knowing that so much can change so quickly.
  I feel very honored to have been able to watch Scotty's story unfold over the past few years and am grateful that God spared his life so that we could be blessed by the inspiring example of this Army officer.

For more information on Scotty, please visit his website at:

* This book is available wherever books are sold and is copyrighted 2010.