A packed Morgan High School auditorium greeted internationally-acclaimed public speaker Chad Hymas Tuesday night, sharing with him a love of life and renewed intentions to be less selfish. The event was part of the Morgan Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 kick off.
In 2001, at the age of 27, Hymas was operating a tractor when a 2,000-pound hay bale fell, shattering his neck and leaving him a quadriplegic. However, his dreams were not paralyzed that day, he told the Morgan crowd.
He altered his plans from raising elk on a 600-acre Utah ranch and serving as a hunting guide to now travelling the world sharing his insights as a public speaker. Father of four, he travels as many as 300,000 miles and 270 days a year to entertain audiences, but never misses any of his sons’ high school ball games, even the one held in Morgan last week. In the last 17 years, Hymas has been to 52 countries and seven continents.
He is now a best-selling author, president of his own communications company, and a recognized world-class wheelchair athlete. In 2003, Hymas set a world record by wheeling his chair 513 from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas, according to chadhymas.com. Now 37, Hymas is one of the youngest ever to receive the Council of Peers Award for Excellence and to be inducted into the National Speaker Hall of Fame. He served as president of the National Speakers Association Utah chapter and is a member of the elite Speakers Roundtable, making him one of 20 of the world’s top speakers.
But Hymas wasn’t always so on top of the world. In fact, lying incapacitated in a hospital bed for months left him contemplating suicide, until his young sons encouraged him and his father had a coming-to-Jesus with him.
In that father-son sit-down, that may or may not have included curse words from the invalid, the eldest shared four principles with his quadriplegic son:
1-Be teachable. “My dad came back after I swore at him and asked if I will be teachable,” Hymas said. He had to learn to walk differently, court his spouse differently, dress differently, and play ball with his sons differently following his accident. “When you lose something, things become sacred in retrospect,” Hymas said. That included being intimate with his wife, as well as pulling back a bow or pulling the trigger of a gun.
2-Use the words “I,” “me” and “my” less often and the words “you,” “our” and “us” more often. This is basically selflessness and focusing on others more than on yourself. “This is not about you,” his father told him as he lay writhing in self pity, unable to dress or feed himself.
To illustrate the point, Hymas had a young man from the audience volunteer to send his mother, or whom he calls “Madre,” a text: “I am in the middle of a community event talking about giving. Thinking of you now!!!”
The message focused on the motherly receiver of the text rather than the adolescent sender. Hymas kept the phone on his lap to await Madre’s response, which he used later in his presentation.
3-Don’t tell them you love them, show them. It’s not the words that come out of your mouth, but your actions.
4-Community members remember how you made them feel, and forget what you say.
By then “Madre” texted back: “Who has your phone? This doesn’t sound like typical you. If it is, glad you made it to the community event. Love you.”
Hymas pointed out that the son didn’t ever tell his mom he loved her, but that she still got that message. In front of the live audience, Hymas called “Madre” Heather, letting her in on her role that night. He promised to fund nine milkshakes from J’s that evening, for “Madre,” her husband and seven children.
5-Be proactive, not reactive. Help people before there is a blatant need.
Hymas said he remembers a time when his 3-year-old son pushed him in his wheelchair from the backyard deck on to the grass so that he could play soccer with them. The young boy put an orange cone on either side of his wheelchair, claiming that since Hymas couldn’t feel his legs, he would make the best goalie in the world. After the audience chuckled, he said, “I am part of the team. I have a role to play. I can’t let them down.” But it took a young boy being proactive, forcing his father from the role of observer to active participant. “I was forced to be involved and part of life.”
Hymas led the audience in singing “Glorious,” along with a music video made of Hymas’s life by David Archuleta and shared during the Grammies.
“It’s like a symphony. Just keep listening. And pretty soon you’ll start to figure out your part,” read the lyrics. “Everyone plays a piece, and there are melodies in each one of us. Oh, it’s glorious.”
Hymas said these five principles have helped him be a better husband and father as well as to have a greater impact, leave a legacy and be a better “guide” and contributor to his community.
Although he knows what it feels like to be trapped and paralyzed, he said he has seen others likewise trapped and paralyzed by addictions, behaviors and traditions.
How has he gotten through so far? He says a secret is eating ice cream after 9 p.m., especially with his 13-year-old daughter, much to the chagrin of his wife.
He has also learned the need for patience. If he had heeded the red-light warning on his tractor indicating low hydraulic fluid, and been a little less hurried, his life may be different now. But he embraces the twists and turns his life has taken, annually burning a bale of hay doused with diesel fuel with his former elk ranch employees; five volunteer EMT “cowboys,” three state troopers, and the helicopter pilot who helped him the day of his accident; medical staff; therapists; friends; and family. It’s better than lighting candles on a birthday cake, he said.
Sometimes he still doesn’t know how he survived his accident that drove a steering wheel shaft through his mouth into the back of his neck. “It doesn’t make sense why some live and some die,” he said while showing a video clip Oprah made of his story.
“Be productive with your time,” he said. “People like being with busy people.”
Before Hymas’s speech, a business expo was set up in the high school commons area for participants to get to know local businesses better. Over two dozen businesses participated. Both events were planned as the Morgan Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Kick-Off Event. The chamber appreciated the sponsors, the businesses who participated in the Business Expo, all of the businesses who contributed to the raffle baskets, everyone who jumped in and helped at the event, and all of the Chamber members.
Three lucky raffle winners claimed their prizes that night: baskets filled with goodies from local business valued at more than $1,000 combined.
Sponsors included Farm Bureau Financial Services, Geneva Rock, Jason P. Johnson of Talon Loans, Team Jerry Pierce, The Morgan County News, Traverse Tours & Travel, Morgan Valley Crafts, Grounds for Coffee of Morgan, Outside the Lines Interior Design, Upglow Design, USU Extension, 1st Bank, Wild Valley Farms and East Canyon Resort.