On a flight to California, I watched a short film about Chris Koch. His story inspired me and touched me deeply. I don’t think Chris would mind me saying this since he enjoys a good sense of humor but the quote “Never judge another person until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes” would not be applicable in Chris’ case. With regards to people who inspire us, it is human nature to ask: How would I respond in similar circumstances? In Chris’ situation, it is almost impossible to understand his immense verve and appreciation for life and giving back. One other aspect about Chris is his incredible smile and sense of humor through it all. During my mission work, one of the most profound discoveries I made was how much people can smile and laugh in the toughest of living conditions. In fact, the impoverished people I met during my mission smiled and laughed more we than we do in the United States. Thus, I had to realize that the greatest free gift bestowed upon us all is laughter. It is true that a laugh closes the distance between strangers – and the realization of the importance of humor inspired the name for our underwear brand. And with that, I introduce you to an inspirational juggernaut, Chris Koch.
Chris was born into a rural community in Alberta, Canada. When his grandma was informed that her daughter-in-law had given birth to a baby boy who was healthy but lacking fully developed arms and legs, Grandma quipped, “Bruce [Chris’s father, her son] never did finish anything he started.” As a man, Chris believes his granny’s wit set the stage for a childhood in which humor helped to rise above maudlin self-pity. “My family could have treated my disability as a total tragedy but instead chose to take it all in stride and make the best of the situation,” he recalls. While he may have possessed only short little rudimentary limbs, he notes, “I had a good head on my shoulders – and with that, anything is possible.” Like other small-town kids, he played road hockey and baseball; like other farm kids, he helped out with chores and operated farm equipment. He sometimes had to modify chores to his limitations and he sometimes took longer than others but he did his part. On an Oprah show, he recalled, “I learned to drive tractors and combines.” The episode showed an adult Chris perfectly maneuvering tractors.
After high school, he moved to Calgary to pursue higher education. “After a few years I moved east to Ottawa where I continued to study History and Psychology at University as well a working The War Amputations of Canada.” The “War Amps” are an important part of Chris’s life and he especially lauds their Child Amputee Program (CHAMP) that assists youngsters who, like Chris, were born missing limbs or who lost them.
Chris later returned to Calgary where he worked in the airline industry. He also had a chance to return to the agricultural life of his childhood. Perhaps most significantly, he launched his “If I Can…” program, a motivational speaking project that is delivered on YouTube videos as well as at schools, conferences, and a variety of other venues.
He acknowledged on Oprah that there are things he cannot do: “I can’t drive legally. I can’t handle a chainsaw. . . . I can’t swim to save my life. Drop me and a bowling ball in the water and I’ll make it to the bottom first nine times out of – nine!” A hearty laugh escaped him as he jauntily added, “I was going to say nine times out of ten but I know I’d make to the bottom first 100% of the time!”
Taking pen in upper stumps, he wrote this message: “Do you see the irony in my handwriting?” Then he winked.
Chris relishes his motivational speaking program. He says, “This allows me to fuel my passion for travel as well as share my story and my experiences in hopes of encouraging others to live their lives to its greatest potential because If I Can…”
He can – and we can – all Make a Marc on this World!