Garrison Keillor: Success from Disability

English: Mr. Garrison Keillor

Have you ever been to Lake Wobegone–just a little north of St. Cloud? You probably know exactly where it is–after all–it’s where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children above average.” It’s middle America. It’s us.

And sadly, after more than forty years, Garrison Keillor will retire. After all, he is 73. He’s handed the reigns to Chris Thile, so Prairie Home Companion will continue.

Neil and I were fortunate to catch one of Keillor’s shows on his farewell tour. He performed at the restored Tennessee Theater.

I knew Keillor was aging. Knew he wasn’t a Robert Downey, Jr. I didn’t expect the mellow storyteller to have Asperger’s. He joked about it–said teachers, when he went to school, simply expected him to be a genius. Kids just knew he was weird.

The show was hysterical. The jokes Keillor-sharp. And he found this niche by accident.

He wanted to be a novelist. Took a “temporary” job in radio. Having been raised by fundamentalists, he knew the world was ending soon, so he didn’t have to worry about a long career in radio.

Thank heavens he was wrong.

And bless God for directing steps.

I’ve worked with students with Asperger’s. They are odd, often bright, but have difficulty in social situations. Radio is a perfect media. Keillor didn’t have to make eye contact with audiences. He could ramble on in his stream of consciousness and define middle America. Audiences got to know him for who he really was, grew to love him and he succeeded.

I know you struggle with your deficiencies, too. They may not be as severe as Keillor’s, they may be worse. However, God is able to work wonders with us just the way we are.

Look at the disciples. Peter was a brash rube. Thomas–dramatic and doubtful. Paul a murderous Pharisee. Still, Jesus took their weaknesses and made them their strengths. Peter became a church leader. Thomas gave us the definitive proclamation of Christ’s deity. Paul unified the Roman kingdom for Christ.

What about you? Are you homely? Do you have to be a cover girl? Lily Tomlin isn’t beautiful, still she became a fine and funny actress.

Are you slow-witted? I know many women who serve others with love and dedication, who make lives worth living even if they hadn’t graduated high school.

Are you odd?

No. Definitely not. You are unique. Beautiful. Made with love and care and divinity.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” Ps.139:14.

Your weakness is a gift. After all, God’s power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

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