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Alvin Law: how one human being chose not to say, "I can't!"

Updated on June 13, 2012

We all have days when we think we have it worse than anybody else. Days when our life’s issues and problems are the biggest that anyone in the whole world has ever experienced… ever! C’mon, don’t lie to me, you have those days too. It could be a work issue, or a family dispute, or a hang nail… but something is causing you to say to yourself, “Unless something changes, I just can’t cope. I can’t go on!”

Now imagine your life issues and think about going through them with out any arms. That’s right, no arms at all. In fact, imagine going through the whole of your life without arms.


That was the situation that befell Alvin Law. Alvin’s mother was one of the estimated 10,000 to 20,000 mothers who had used the drug Thalidomide as a combatant to morning sickness during pregnancy, whose infants were born with physical deformities. Alvin was born with no arms at all. His natural parents felt that this was more than they could handle and so put Alvin up for adoption. Whilst still an infant, Alvin was taken in by foster parents Hilda and Jack Law. They knew they were taking on a huge challenge accepting this baby with no hope of him living a life with any purpose or quality due to his massive deformity.

He refused to say, "I can't!"

Yet inside of Alvin was a determination that simply forbade him from saying, “I can’t”. He began to teach himself to use his feet as a replacement for his hands beginning with holding his bottle up to feed himself. It was learn to do that or go without – a very convicting scenario!

He excelled!

As he grew he basically replaced his missing hands with his feet for everything. He learned to take care of his basic needs for food, clothing and personal hygiene and grooming. But for Alvin, that wasn’t enough. He believed in himself that he could excel even with his handicap. He did something that other handicapped children never were able to do – he was accepted into a regular school. Back in the 60’s and 70’s such children were segregated. Not only did Alvin attend, but he stood out from the crowd, and not because of how he looked. He learned to play drums, trombone and piano – all using his feet. He was very smart academically too, graduating from both High School and College with honors. Not at all bad for a human being that many had already written off.

After College, Alvin went into broadcasting and that led onto his desire to be a motivational speaker. He also ventured into acting, appearing in an episode of The X-Files as a handicapped preacher. He has been in 2 documentaries highlighting the issues caused by thalidomide, one of which received an Emmy Award.

Since 1988, Alvin has been a full time motivational speaker travelling all over the world telling his story of how he overcame and never said, “I can’t.”

He has been married twice and has a son Vance of whom is very proud.

Alvin, wife Darlene and son Vance.
Alvin, wife Darlene and son Vance.

I recently had the opportunity of sitting in a meeting where, unbeknownst to me, Alvin Law was the guest speaker. I was mesmerized by his tale and the way he communicated his message so powerfully and how adept he really was at using his feet as hands. I actually felt myself change from watching what at first could have been considered a “circus show”, to embracing a true, genuine appreciation of what this man has been able to achieve against all the odds. I only wish everyone could have seen what I saw, but to try to get a grasp of what I witnessed, check out the video below. It's not from the meeting I was in, but it will give you an idea of what Alvin Law is all about.

Check out what a man who doesn't say "I can't" can do...

It's your turn now...

Next time you are considering saying, “I can’t!” to a situation in your life I challenge you to stop and consider that you have within you the ability to do far more than you (or others) give you credit for.


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    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 5 years ago from uk

      It's great to read Alvin's story, thanks for writing this hub. Mindset is such an important thing. How brilliant that he gives talks to help inspire others.

    • petenali profile image

      Pete 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Agreed wheelinallover. I just find it sad when people without any labels say they can't do something, when those with more labels than lost luggage are able to do whatever they put their minds or bodies to. Thanks for stopping by.

    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 5 years ago from Central United States

      It is not what you can't do which defines you, it is what you do with what you have. Anyone labeled "Disabled" can do anything they choose. It is not possible however if you let the label influence you. As one of the "lost causes" I know this to be true.