Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A letter to Elise Eberwein (executive vice president, people and communications for American Airlines Group)

Hello Elise and affiliates!

You don’t know me, but I am writing this letter because I want to share a story and an idea with you.

My name is Jordan Stroman, I am 22 years old, and I just began my final semester studying Web Design and Digital Media at the University of Central Florida. I love to read and write. I love to drink coffee and spend time with the lovely people I’m blessed to live life with.

All of my life, my heart has yearned for adventure. Exploring and discovering, I can constantly feel the anticipation in my bones. Because traveling isn't convenient when you come with a 400lb electric wheelchair, assistive breathing equipment, and a plethora of other necessary gadgets, I have felt a great share of frustration. Being in a situation where traveling and spontaneity can often be very challenging and quite complicated, I began to believe that seeing new skies was no longer in my cards (a very hard pill to swallow). This summer, however, my perspective began to change.

This summer, God put an idea on my heart: in the spring of the new year, I would fly in a plane and go on a grand adventure. A very exciting prospect, but also quite scary. I have not flown in a plane in over 10 years. Air travel is not well-designed for the physically disabled; it is a very cumbersome and challenging process. Out of a fear of discomfort and the unknown, as well as a lack of resources, I have not pursued my many major adventure dreams. Until now.

By God's grace and provision, I will leave Orlando and embark to San Diego, California on February 27th to attend the Storyline conference.

Storyline is a conference that was started last year by author Donald Miller. The purpose of the conference is to equip each attendee in creating life plans that give them personal vision and clarity. As the name implies, Storyline is all about stories. The focus is meaning, connection, and authenticity, rather than production. Our lives are living stories and every day we have an opportunity to make those stories great. Another wonderful man, Bob Goff, will be speaking as well.

As I’m planning to write a book, this trip will undoubtably be an awesome experience of self-growth. There is even greater purpose to this adventure, however. I will have the great pleasure of making this journey alongside a few of my dear friends and a talented filmmaker. We want to make a film that will encourage and inspire others. We want to tell a story of hope and adventure and joy that isn't dependent on agreeable circumstances. I want to pave the way for other disabled people who have believed the lie that they are too much for great adventure. I want to show them that they, too, can chase their dreams. Yes, this trip is about embracing life and living fully, but more than that, it is an opportunity to open eyes. It is an opportunity to allow others to see the beautiful gift that life is and that it’s worth living fully.

I am super stoked but also very aware of how challenging the journey is going to be, both logistically and financially. It’s very difficult to be comfortable in anything besides my wheelchair or bed, so I know sitting upright without lateral, head or feet support for six hours is going to be quite difficult. I have heard countless horror stories of wheelchairs being damaged or destroyed by luggage loaders who don’t know how to handle the chairs. I always need someone with me to assist me, every expense is double what it would be for the average traveler. Once in San Diego, I will have to rent equipment that is too large to travel with, as well as an accessible van.

It is a challenge that I’m ready to face. I am trusting that God will open the right doors and provide the necessary resources. I have received generous financial help from many friends and family and was able to buy my tickets last week. On February 27th, we will be flying nonstop from ORL to SAN on AA. On March 4th, we will be returning to ORL on US Airways.

Through this trip I hope to start something that can encourage those who have believed that adventure is not in their cards, and to equip them to travel. I’m writing this letter for two reasons: 1) I wanted to see if there is there anything that can be done on your end to make this initial journey somewhat smoother and more comfortable, and 2) more importantly,
I would love to see strides made towards improving the air travel experience for those with immobilizing disabilities. I feel like this is my battle to fight and I would love to work together to put in place a program to do just that.

By God's sweet grace, I have air in my lungs and opportunity before me. This life, this day, this breath is such a gift and so full of opportunity. I am grateful to have begun to understand a sliver of the weight of that beautiful reality. I'm ready to explore this wonderful world we are living in and I hope that we can tell a story that can inspire deep hope.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Jordan Stroman