The audience cheered and applauded in approval. The concert was over. The boys bowed to the crowds as beads of perspiration streamed down their faces.
They were satisfied with their performance. They had worked long and hard to prepare for this tour, and the effort was again paying off. The fans yelled for more as they clapped and whistled wildly in an effort to persuade the group to sing another song. The boys nodded their heads to each other and sprang once more to their instruments for an additional number.
This was one of their many moments of triumph. From Australia to Germany, from England to Japan, from Canada to South America, from California to New York, the Osmonds had become a household word. Everyone knew them all—or did they?
As the boys performed their encore, a young man stood backstage like a silent shadow and watched. He couldn’t hear the music clearly, but he could feel its beat. His excited smile was almost exaggerated as his eyes followed them and beamed with pride. He shuffled his feet as though to imitate the dance routine the boys were now performing.
He was their older brother, Tom. As he watched, he longed to be with them, but he knew that was impossible because he is deaf.
How does it feel to be a member of the famous and successful Osmond family without being able to be a part of their theatrical accomplishments? Tom explains it this way:
“People meet my famous brothers with excitement just beaming from their eyes. When they are introduced to me and find out I am one of the brothers, too, they briefly shake my hand, give me a look of pity, and quickly return to their first interest, my brothers. It really used to depress me sometimes. I felt so left out.
“As my family became more and more famous, their pace of life continued to increase. They were coming and going constantly. The phone was always ringing. People were always stopping by the house. Not being able to hear, I depend on lip reading a lot to understand what is going on. With everyone in such a hurry and things always happening so quickly, it got to where I couldn’t keep up with it all.
“I’d get frustrated. I’d yell at one of my family, stop them from their busy responsibilities, and insist they take time to tell me what was going on. They tried so hard to keep me informed, but it was impossible. The more popular they became, the more I began to realize that our lives were headed down two different roads. I found I was no longer content being just one of the other Osmond brothers. I wanted to be known as myself, liked for myself. I wanted to be me!
“But who was I? This soul-searching led to a question that arose in my mind time and time again: ‘Who am I, really, and why am I deaf?’
“I learned from my mother and father’s teachings that I am a child of God, that my Father in heaven loves me and will hear and answer my prayers.
“At first, faithfully believing but misunderstanding this, I fasted and prayed often that I would be healed from my infirmity so that I could be famous with my brothers. When my miracle didn’t come, again I asked why?
“Once my father said to me there was no question in life that could not be answered in the scriptures. And so I began to search them for some clue to who I really was, why I was here on this earth in this condition, and what my purpose in life was to be.
“I rambled through the pages of holy writ, reading here a verse and there a verse until one day I came across John 9:1–3:
“‘And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
“‘And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?’
“Then Christ’s answer, like the thunder from heaven, hit me deep inside as I read:
“‘Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.’
“That’s when it finally came to me. I was an individual. I had God-given talents. And even though I couldn’t be a singer like the rest of my family, I still had something major to contribute with my life. I realized I had to stop pouting over my weaknesses. I needed to discover those talents, develop them, and use them to achieve my own success.
“I knew from the beginning it wasn’t going to be easy. But I found comfort in the words of the apostle Paul who suffered from his own problem, which he called a thorn in the flesh. He was told by the Lord that ‘strength is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Cor. 12:9.) Paul said he took pleasure in his infirmities for ‘when I am weak, then am I strong.’ (2 Cor. 12:10.)
“I was determined I was going to make my own success in life. I wondered if there had ever been any handicapped persons who had. So I decided to do a little research.
“I discovered that about one out of every seven persons in the world has some kind of disability. I found out that there are about 25 million handicapped persons in the United States alone. But only about 10 million of them have the kind of handicaps that could keep them from leading normal, useful lives.
“With further study, I learned that there have been a lot of famous people in the world who have overcome handicaps to achieve success and make major contributions to mankind. For instance, Franklin D. Roosevelt was crippled by polio at the age of 39. He never walked again without braces or other artificial aids. Yet, Roosevelt became the only president of the United States ever elected four times.
“Helen Keller conquered not one, but three physical handicaps. She became blind, deaf, and mute before she was two years old. But she learned to read, write, and speak. She devoted her life to helping the blind and the deaf.
“Clarence Shepherd Day, Jr., was a famous American author. After the Spanish-American War, he suffered from arthritis and had to stay in bed for the rest of his life. But he did not let this interfere with his writing. He wrote the ironic and humorous books Life with Father and Life with Mother.
“Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Jose Feliciano, and Sammy Davis, Jr., are four individuals who partially or completely lost their eye sight, but they became famous actors and musicians.
“Handicapped persons have made great contributions to literature, music, and art. Lord Byron had a club foot, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning was an invalid. Each wrote some of the world’s finest poetry. After John Milton became blind, he wrote Paradise Lost, one of the world’s greatest epic poems. After Ludwig Von Beethoven became deaf, he composed some of his best-known music. Alec Templeton and George Shearing, both born blind, gained fame as outstanding popular pianists.
“Francisco Goya, the noted painter, was deaf. Actress Sarah Bernhardt held audiences spellbound even after losing a leg. Winston Churchill overcame stuttering to become one of the world’s most eloquent speakers.
“Many athletes have become champions in spite of handicaps. When Glen Cunningham was eight years old, his legs were scarred to the bone in a schoolhouse fire. Yet he became a great track star. Golfer Ben Hogan, injured in an automobile accident, was told he might never walk again. Four years later he won three of the world’s top golf tournaments. Two baseball stars, Grover Cleveland Alexander and Tony Lazzeri, had epilepsy. John Belmonte, the famous bullfighter, had a twisted and deformed body.
“In every case these people overcame a serious handicap to become noted in their fields. And there were hundreds more who were not so famous but who hurdled the insurmountable odds of their own handicaps to achieve personal success.
“After studying these cases, I found I could admit it without frustration: I had a physical handicap. And finally I accepted it and began to work hard each day to overcome its limitations and use the talents I did have to achieve success.
“My handicap became a blessing to me. It strengthened me as I learned to overcome my difficulties. I learned that I must work harder at everything I do because of my deafness. Even the simple task of speaking and expressing myself was a challenge.
“Have you ever thought of how difficult it would be to learn to talk if you could not hear the sounds of the words? It’s not easy, and it takes many hours of practice and patience. I am very grateful to my wonderful family for all the encouragement and assistance they have given me in helping me to improve my speech. I had to learn to be humble so that I could readily accept their criticism and correction.
“But in my struggles I have learned that there are more than just physical handicaps. There are handicaps of attitudes also that hold back far more people from success than the physical kind. Many individuals believe they can never achieve success, so they never try. Some even preprogram themselves to fail before they ever start.
“Against the discouragement of many who said it was impossible, I taught myself to play the piano, drums, and saxophone, and I learned how to tap dance for my own enjoyment and amusement and other people’s amazement. I conquered the skills of printing and the techniques of photography and turned them into a successful business that now provides me my livelihood.
“I learned to love people and wanted to associate with them and share my story with others so that they might learn and grow from my experiences. To do this, I started giving lectures and writing. In each case these things were and still are difficult to accomplish. But my life now has new purpose and meaning because I had the courage to try and be what I wanted to be. Through these efforts I am beginning to discover the real me.
“My parents always taught me, ‘Prepare yourself and the opportunity will come.’ John A. Widtsoe said, ‘Decide what you want to be, pay the price, and be what you want to be.’
“For those of us who are physically handicapped, the price is a little higher, but our goals can be accomplished. No one should let a disability hold him back or make him think he cannot achieve.
“Whenever the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window. Every weakness has its compensating strength. The Lord gives us this comforting promise in Ether 12:27:
“‘I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.’
“As I said, there are more than just physical weaknesses. Bad habits are weaknesses, too, and hold us back just as much as the physical ones. The love of money, lust, greed, envy, covetousness, dishonesty, criticism, unfair judgment, gossip, name calling—all are weaknesses that keep us from achieving and growing spiritually as well as temporally. Yet the Lord promises in this verse from the Book of Mormon, that if we will humble ourselves before him and seek his help, he will assist us in turning these failings into strengths.
“Impossible you may say? No, it is not. The Osmond family motto comes from Proverbs 3:5–6: [Prov. 3:5–6]
“‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
“‘In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.’
“I’m grateful we chose that for our motto. It’s been a strength for me in my life. It’s helped me to realize that there is no handicap in the world that can keep a person from achieving some measure of success if he or she will just keep trying, place his trust in the Lord, and never allow himself to get discouraged by self pity.
“I am often asked what advice I would give other handicapped people, and this is what I answer, although really, it applies to everyone:
“Meet with faith each challenge that comes to you. Have courage and don’t give up, no matter what your difficulties. Be independent and self-reliant. Educate yourself. Overcome selfishness and self-pity by dedicating your life to the service of others. And last, discover your talents and use them!”