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posted: 7/21/2011 4:00 AM

Lessons in conquering life's bumps

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Daily Herald Editorial Board

There is little doubt Sean Stephenson would appreciate Jordan Aubey's story. And little doubt Aubey would enjoy telling Stephenson's.

Separate stories about the two men appeared on the front page of Monday's Daily Herald. They are inspirational in their own right and can tell us a few things about dreaming big and not letting life's bumps in the road knock you off your bike.

Stephenson is an Oak Brook therapist whose can-do attitude will outshine that of most people you'll ever be lucky enough to meet.

At just 3 feet tall and 56 pounds, Stephenson is a therapist, author and dreamer. He has created a bucket list of lofty goals he fully intends to meet. And he's been doing just that.

Aubey is a Joplin, Mo., TV reporter who was nearly killed in the massive tornado that leveled his city. He has spent the last couple months recuperating in his old hometown of Winfield, where his dad is a minister. Aubey has just returned to Joplin to pick up the pieces of his life and resume telling the stories of his city.

Stephenson nearly didn't begin life in the first place, which probably is why he is living it so fully today. He was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a brittle bone disease. Nearly every bone in his body broke during birth. Doctors had little hope he'd survive.

Stephenson, 32, now has a best-selling book, aptly titled "Get Off Your BUT," that's being translated into several languages. He's working on a doctorate and getting married next year.

Oh, and despite the fact that he can neither stand nor walk, he has thrown out the first pitch at a White Sox game. He's met privately with the Dalai Lama. And he commands $15,000 to $25,000 per talk for his motivational speaking gigs (up to $30,000 abroad.)

How cool is that?

As a therapist, Stephenson told Daily Herald reporter Anna Madrzyk, he works to get at the heart of what's blocking his clients' pathway to happiness. Clearly, that reinforces his own resolve.

He views his physical challenges as just that, challenges. He doesn't let them define him.

When the Joplin tornado hit, 27-year-old Jordan Aubey took refuge in his bathtub. When the wind subsided, he was covered in debris, his hip broken, his apartment building rubble.

He still faces challenges, he told Daily Herald reporter Matt Arado. The metal rods that a surgeon installed may not be enough to allow him to walk unassisted by crutches. There will be emotional challenges, too, in seeing what's become of his new hometown.

But he's committed to getting back to tell the stories of people rebuilding Joplin.

In these troubling times, these two men remind us that you have to have faith in yourself. When you hit one of those big bumps in life's road, you need to get back on your bike and ride.