“What we’ve seen on camera just scratches the surface. Scott’s moving story will inspire everyone who reads it.”
—Michael W. Smith, Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter
Is it possible to be high on a mountain and deep in a valley at the same time? This isn’t a riddle, it’s Scott MacIntyre’s life. Each time his dreams came true, Scott found his nightmares not far behind. Some call it Murphy’s Law. Others call it bad luck. Scott has learned to call it a blessing, even when circumstances have threatened to
Is it possible to be high on a mountain and deep in a valley at the same time? This isn’t a riddle, it’s Scott MacIntyre’s life. Each time his dreams came true, Scott found his nightmares not far behind. Some call it Murphy’s Law. Others call it bad luck. Scott has learned to call it a blessing, even when circumstances have threatened to take everything away. Outstanding graduate. Marshall scholar. Recording artist. Inspirational speaker. American Idol. Blind from birth, Scott has had to work harder and longer to achieve his goals. But when a silent killer begins to undermine his success and threaten his very life, Scott cannot work it out alone. Once again, he must lean on his faith, his close-knit family, and the life-giving aid of friends to survive. Follow Scott’s roller coaster ride to see how God used the mountains and valleys to give him perspective, hope, and ultimately triumph.
I've been in places where my life couldn't be better Just to see myself slip back into the dark —from "The Good, the Bad, the Ugly," Scott MacIntyre
Thursday, May 12, 2005
The worst day of my life began as the best day of my life.
The alarm went off, and I threw back the covers, leaped out of bed, and jumped on my brother, Todd, who was sound asleep in his bed.
"Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!" I said, pushing him until he finally rolled over.
Satisfied that he was now awake, I reached across his bed to open the blinds. The sun hadn't been up long, but enough Arizona sun filled the room to prevent Todd from going back to sleep.
"What time is it?" asked Todd.
"It's time to get up," I said, jumping up and down and clapping like a seal. It's this thing I do when I'm so excited, I can't contain it. I knew it would make Todd laugh.
Todd chuckled. "What are you doing?"
"I can't help it. This is going to be the best day ever!"
In a few hours, I would be graduating from college. My peers, all dressed in their caps and gowns, would be seated in chairs on the floor of Sun Devil Stadium. Admiring friends and family would be in the stands looking on. I would have a seat of honor on the raised stage. I couldn't help smiling as I thought about all the things I'd overcome to get to this point.
Because I had ben born blind, my parents had to fight to get me the education they wanted for me, and eventually they chose to homeschool. Until my college admittance exams at age fourteen, I'd never taken a standardized test to know how I compared academically to my peers. But now, at age nineteen, I was graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor of music degree in piano performance. I had been selected as a Marshall and a Fulbright scholar, two prestigious awards that would pay for me to continue my academic pursuits in the coming fall at Cambridge University in England. In addition, USA Today had recognized me as one of the top 20 undergraduates in the nation in their All-USA College Academic First Team.
Though I had never expected those honors, I had worked hard for them. I'd spent the last year filling out applications, writing essays, and interviewing for the scholarship programs. The interviews were the most rigorous part—I had to be prepared to discuss any topic imaginable and be able to defend whatever I said. There are times in life when we work hard, but regardless of our hard work, we don't see the fruits of our labor. But this time, on this day, I would have a bountiful harvest.
Before the graduation ceremony, I would be one of several guests honored by the president of the university at a brunch. Afterward, the dean of the College of Fine Arts would hold a dinner in my honor. And if that wasn't enough, in a few hours, I would be the featured graduation speaker at Gammage Auditorium for the College of Fine Arts diploma ceremony. I had worked so hard, and despite being blind, I had overcome many obstacles. Now my life was coming together in the most fantastic way.
My dreams were coming true.
* * *
As I waited for my turn at the podium, adrenaline pumped through my veins. I tried to remain focused. I'd been in the audience at Gammage Auditorium countless times during my four years at ASU—usually to see touring productions of Broadway musicals. But now, much like at the main graduation ceremony earlier that day, I was seated on stage next to the dean. A few weeks earlier, I'd been on the stage to perform Beethoven's Second Concerto with the ASU orchestra after winning a competition. I knew the auditorium and its acoustics well. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the round building had a proscenium stage and three tiered balconies that held three thousand people in terra-cotta cushioned seats.
I listened to the polite applause as each of the speakers ahead of me finished, and I noticed how the acoustics sounded different on stage than they did in the audience. As if warming up for a concert, my fingers silently danced on my knees, occasionally getting caught in the folds of my graduation gown. Whether it was excitement, nerves, or habit from so many piano performances, I was barely cognizant of what my fingers were doing. When I played piano for large audiences, I was eager to inspire others through my music—I let the piano say the things I couldn't. But today there wouldn't be a Steinway to hide behind. There would be just the microphone and me, and I would have to do my best to inspire my fellow graduates with only my words.
My pulse quickened and I quietly cleared my throat. At nineteen, I was three or four years younger than most of the other graduates. I'm sure some of them thought I was still a kid who lacked life experience. But life had taught me that no matter who we are—young or old, rich or poor—we all have dreams and we all face obstacles. And we all have a choice as to how we will handle them. Pursuing big dreams in spite of tremendous obstacles was something I felt comfortable speaking about.
But perhaps I should have practiced my speech more?
Because of my blindness, I didn't use note cards. I had to memorize every word. I had intended to spend more time practicing out loud the day before, but we had been too busy. Friends and relatives were driving or flying in from as far away as Canada to attend my graduation and to celebrate with a party at our house. All morning, as we prepared for the festivities, the phone had rung with people wanting to confirm times and locations. Then, when Mom left to pick up a few last-minute items, I went with her so I could stop by the doctor's office and retake a blood test. One of the scholarships I'd won required proof from the winning candidates that they were healthy enough to travel and live abroad. The physical had been done weeks earlier, but last week the doctor's office called and said my creatinine level had tested high at 3.8.
"It's probably just a fluke," the doctor said. "I'm not worried. He's nineteen. Even people in their forties and fifties don't have levels higher than a 1.5. Unfortunately, I can't clear him medically until we get him retested. Just stop by the office at your convenience and we'll take care of it."
With my senior piano recital, finals, and graduation preparations, I hadn't yet had time to get by his office. So along with picking up the fruit trays, extra paper products, and dozens of maroon and gold balloons, a stop at the doctor's office was just one more thing that prevented me from practicing the speech. But ready or not, there was nothing I could do about that now.
I closed my eyes and said a quick prayer for my speech—not only for my delivery to be smooth, but for God's love to show through it. I obviously couldn't discuss my faith during this speech, so I just prayed that his love would be completely evident through my heart and personality. And I prayed that I would be a blessing to those who heard me speak. As I finished my prayer, I heard the dean finish my introduction.
"Please welcome Scott MacIntyre."
I stood up and took a deep breath as the dean guided me to the podium. I placed my hands on both sides of the heavy wooden frame so I knew I was squared off and facing the audience. An orange glare from the lights hit me in the face and confirmed I was in the right place. The applause slowly receded. I heard the low buzz of the air conditioning system. Worn chair springs creaked throughout the auditorium as people shifted in their seats. Somewhere in the back, a child started to cry.
"When I first discovered I had congenital blindness and that this would limit my abilities in certain aspects of life, I saw a significant choice before me. And I continue to make this choice daily. Would I stop believing in myself, become indifferent, and lose hope of living a meaningful life? Or would I dare to dream that someday, though the road may be laden with obstacles, my abilities would outshine my blindness?" I paused briefly. The auditorium was silent. I could feel the crowd looking at me. "By the same token, will each one of you stand in doubt and succumb to your own fears? Or will you embrace all that life has to offer?"
I spoke with confidence. I knew each person in the room had doubts and fears. Though each of our concerns may be different than our neighbor's, the fact that we have them unites us in a kind of anxious human bond. There was no shame in that, as far as I was concerned. In the past, I'd had momentary doubts and lingering fears. But I'd also found that when I let go, when I gave my concerns to God, his presence and assurances became more real to me. It was my dependence on him—and not in my own strength—that helped me progress toward my dreams.
I continued with a quote from Göethe, the brilliant German author: "'Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth ... the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidence and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.'"
Many people talk about going to college, but I reminded the graduates that they were there because they had committed to their idea. As a result, they could now choose from opportunities they otherwise never would have had.
"Many times, the first step is the hardest to take. Our dreams seem so distant, and our initial efforts do not often reap the results we expect. This is why it is important to focus on long-term goals and not get caught up in the immediate consequences of taking a chance."
Again, my own life had taught me that well. Without the ability to see, every step forward was a chance. A chance to fail, but also a chance to succeed. And I had succeeded. I could feel the energy in the crowd increasing as my words connected with them. Nineteen years old and blind, standing on the stage, I was the best example I could offer for what happens when you take the risk to follow your dreams. I had been told that my life had already inspired many people, and it was my prayer that I would continue to inspire those who needed it most.
"When you truly believe something is possible," I said, "then, if in reality it is, it will come to pass."
I finished with another quote from Göethe: "'Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.'"
To my surprise the audience exploded in applause. I bent down to pick up my cane, and Mom was there to guide me to a seat in the audience with the rest of the graduates. As the applause continued, she said, "They're giving you a standing ovation." Before taking my seat in the front, I turned toward the crowd, smiled, and nodded in the general direction of the audience.
As I sat down I felt a huge sense of accomplishment—partially for just making it through the speech without messing up, but also because I felt that I'd really connected with the audience. It was the capstone of a very exciting day for me. The standing ovation was a wonderful send-off from ASU, and I hoped to work hard and earn more of them in my future.
I had big dreams. Ever since I could remember, I wanted to go on tour and share my music in concert halls and arenas. It's not that I needed crowds to validate me or my music; it was just that there was something so communal about being the one to create the music that lifted a crowd to its feet. I couldn't imagine a dream bigger than leading that kind of emotional experience.
Looking into my future, it was easy to dream big—big things were already happening. During the previous few years, I'd had opportunities to play with the ASU, Phoenix, and West Valley symphonies, and I knew that more opportunities were on the horizon. Also during that time, I had been part of a singing quartet with my mother, sister, and brother, and we'd recently released a CD. That would give me even more opportunities to travel and perform, but that wasn't all. Although I was classically trained in voice, two years earlier I'd released a CD of inspirational songs, and recently I'd taken an interest in pop music. I was working on my first pop album and planned to release it during the next year. And in the fall, I would be attending Cambridge University in England to get my master's degree in musicology.
As the audience's applause finally died out, I realized that the life I'd always dreamed about was starting now.
* * *
The graduates, who had been so contained during the ceremony, commenced to celebrating. Hundreds of families erupted through the exits in a controlled chaos. I could hear the cheers and the shouts of congratulations, and I could sense the hugs and enthusiastic handshakes. Everyone seemed to be talking at once. The celebratory mood was contagious and only seemed to grow as Mom escorted me out of the building to where the rest of my family stood waiting.
"You did great!" Mom said.
"I was so proud of you," said Dad, putting his arm around my shoulder.
Other family members echoed their words. "You did a really good job!" "Congratulations!"
The plan was for Mom to take me to the dinner the dean was throwing in my honor, while Dad, Todd, and Katelyn, along with my grandpa, Poppy, would head back to the house to begin final preparations for my graduation party. The rest of our friends and relatives would return to their hotels to rest and change clothes before meeting us at the house.
We tried to head to the parking lot as a group, but moving through the crowd was slow going. People kept stopping us to congratulate me. I stopped to talk with everyone and to shake hands and take pictures. While all that was going on, Dad's cell phone rang.
"Can you hold on a minute?" he said into the phone. "I need to step away so I can hear you."
Dad sometimes had to take work calls during family events, but there was something in the tone of his voice that concerned me. Though he had stepped away from the crowd, I could still hear bits of his conversation.
"What does this mean?" he asked. "How soon do we need to do something?"
It sounded serious.
"Scott, come here and take a picture with Poppy," Mom said.
I moved toward the sound of her voice. I stood where Mom told me to, and someone took my hand and pointed it in the direction of the camera so I'd know where to look.
"But what can you do to fix it?" Dad asked as cameras clicked.
"Scott, Walter Cosand is here to see you," said Mom.
I walked toward her and heard the familiar voice of my piano professor. Walter Cosand was a formal man but in a friendly sort of way. Always humble, the cadence of his speech was thoughtful, as if giving great care and consideration to every word. After four years of studying with him, I knew the man very well, and I respected him greatly. He truly believed in my potential, and there seemed to be a glow about him when he told other musicians about me.
"Thanks for coming," I said, holding out my hand.
"Well ... great job, Scott!" he said.
I knew that he was very proud of all that I had accomplished and was excited about my future. We chatted briefly about our summer plans and then he left.
Mom and I took off for the car. The crowds had thinned, and in the distance, car doors slammed and graduates whooped and hollered as they left the parking lot. Dad was ahead also, and I realized he was still on the phone. From the sound of his voice, I knew whatever it was, it was bad. Mom knew it too. The closer we got to him and the car, the faster she walked. But I slowed down, as if I had a premonition that everything was about to change.
No one was whooping and hollering anymore; the other graduates had all departed for parties and bright futures. In the distance I heard the solitary click of high heels on the pavement. And then a car door opened and shut. The car drove away. Dad ended his call, and everything was very quiet.
"Who was that?" Mom asked tentatively. "I don't know how to say this," he replied, his voice cracking.
Excerpted from By Faith, Not by Sight by Scott MacIntyre Jennifer Schuchmann Copyright © 2012 by Scott MacIntyre. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Scott MacIntyre captivated the nation as the first blind finalist on American Idol. As an acclaimed singer-songwriter, he has toured in arenas across North America, headlined concerts in Japan, Austria, England, Canada, and the US, and written and released his latest CD, Heartstrings, debuting at #18 on the iTunes Pop Album Chart. As an in-demand inspirational keynote speaker, Scott has shared his unique and dynamic life story with many different audiences.
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