It was 1999 at Mrs. Winner’s Chicken and Biscuits diner. Jim Bradford stopped in to get his cup of coffee as he usually did; only, that morning, something was different. As he ordered his coffee, Jim noticed a boy sitting alone and saw that there was something different about him.
The boy’s name was HK Derryberry. He was nine years old with crutches, wearing ragged clothes and his right arm was bent in an usual way. In addition to all that, Jim noticed that the boy was also blind. He wanted to check upon the little guy, so he approached him and the two began to talk.
HK told him he was not alone, his grandmother Pearl worked behind the cash register at the diner and he was waiting for her. That made Jim relax a bit. As they continued to talk, the boy told him his story which melted the man’s heart.
According to HK, he never knew his parents. His mother died in a car crash while she was still pregnant so HK came into the world three months before his due date. Being born that early, his body was not fully developed and the little boy could not handle being outside the womb all that well.
He was left with cerebral palsy after a brain aneurism which also left some of his limbs underdeveloped. In addition to all that, his retinas were not fully developed before his birth so he was bound to blindness.
His condition became too much for his father to handle so he left HK and the grandmother Pearl continued to take care of him. She enrolled him to a school for the blind and made sure his medical appointments are all regular. While she was taking care of HK, she also tried to balance working in the diner.
Upon hearing his story, Jim’s heart was left broken and he decided to do all he can to help the little boy.
The man and the boy bonded. They enjoyed watching Tennessee Titans, their favorite football team and listening to blue-grass music. During one of the conversations Jim had with HK, he found out the boy has a very rare talent. He was gifted with hyperthymesia, a rare skill only 100 people have: the ability to remember every detail of every event that happened to him.
This is when Jim got an amazing idea. He wanted him and HK to write a book about HK’s life with all the vivid memories, the good and bad ones and call it “The Awakening of HK Derryberry”.
As they had assumed, the book was a real hit. It sold very quickly as people wanted to learn about a boy who remembers everything.
The huge success of the book encouraged Jim and HK to take it a step further and now, aged 73 and 26, the two are traveling the world and sharing their story of love and determination. Not only is HK a successful writer, but now he has a friend, father and mentor to help him along the way. Who would think a cup of coffee can change the world in such a way?!
Check out HK’s talk about overcoming adversity in a loving comic way.
Bottom line is, sometimes, all it takes is a bit of guidance, someone to stir you in the right direction to make things awesome. Share this story if you enjoyed it. It might be encouraging to some!