Speaker challenges others to make the most of life

Chris Koch shared his story as the guest speaker at the Citizen of the Year banquet, Oct. 3. (GREG VANDERMEULEN/Winkler Times)

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Born with no arms and no legs, motivational speaker Chris Koch came to the Winkler Community Foundation Citizen of the Year banquet Oct. 3 with one clear message. If I can do it so can you.

The Nanton, Alberta product told the audience that he traveled the world, learned to snowboard, surf, work on the farm and lives a happy independent life.

“If I can do all those things anybody, every single person in this room is capable of doing some pretty exceptional and amazing things and it has nothing to do with limbs, it has nothing to do with physical activity, but it has everything to do with that six inches of space between the ears,” he said.

Koch said the brain can be a big help or a big obstacle.

“We can convince ourselves that we are invincible, that we can do anything, and we can also convince ourselves that we’re worthless or useless,” he said.

In a presentation sprinkled with humour he talked about the eight marathons he’s taken part in on a skateboard, the countries he’s visited and the challenges he’s overcome.

It all began in Nanton, Alberta. “Winkler is a big city compared to where I grew up,” he said. “You guys have traffic lights and a Walmart.”

But the sense of community he grew up with can also be found here.

Koch said there’s no particular reason he was born without arms and legs, telling the crowd his mother never did anything or took anything during pregnancy to cause it.

“It’s just one of those things that happened,” he said.

Despite that, he describes his life growing up as “incredibly normal”.

“I grew up in a small town, I went to a regular school, I played all the sports when I was a kid, I helped out at my Grandpa’s farm and still help out on the farm to this day,” he said. “I go as far as to say that my life growing up was easy.”

Koch said a good sense of humour was key, adding he inherited that from his grandmother. That humour was demonstrated by her reaction after finding out he was born missing limbs.

“Her reaction to hearing that I was born missing arms and legs was to accuse my dad of never finishing anything he started,” he said.

He also doesn’t feel that he ever lost anything.

“This has been my normal, my whole life,” he said. “I’ve never known what it’s like to have arm and legs.”

A believer that God doesn’t give people more than they can handle, Koch said he credits his parents for letting him learn.

“My parents realized very early on… they knew they needed to step back and let me figure it out on my own,” he said. “The best thing you can do for your kids is less, and that is exactly why I’m as independent as I am today.”

Koch finds himself on the road 200 days per year, giving more than 300 presentations.

And while he seeks to inspire others, he says his story is not one of triumph over tragedy. “It’s been a lot of fun, a lot of laughs,” he said.

There are of course down days, and Koch said it can be easy for people to blame the bad times on things they can’t change, in Koch’s case, the fact he is missing limbs.

“I have no arms and legs, I’m never going to have arms and legs, so why waste energy on that?,” he said, adding the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. “If we take the time and energy to look around, the grass is pretty green right where we sit.”

Koch has traveled to 28 countries and had countless adventures. “I will go as far to say I’m probably having more fun and more success without arms and legs than I would have had I been born with them,” he said.

He had a clear message for the audience.

“I want every single person in this room to be grateful and not take for granted what they have in their lives,” he said. “Just go for it. I’m way more afraid of regret than failure.”

“We’re only here once, so why not make the most of it,” he added.

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