"Find Something You Are a Part Of:" Cecil's Story

We’re on the cusp of the holiday season. That time of year when we all get sucked into the hustle and bustle. Get ready, because you know it’s coming. As we prepare to greet November and dive into the season of blessings and giving, now is a great time to remind ourselves that blessings aren’t just thanks for what we are given, but also a time of imparting intangible blessings onto OTHERS.

There are stories all around us. We all have one. The question is whether or not we choose to share it. Cecil Williams is among our Downtown Family YMCA wellness staff. From the outside, one might see an individual with physical challenges, but his story is one of great strength and an inspiration to us all.

Cecil joined the Downtown Family YMCA staff in 2018. A longtime member of the Y and an active participant in Silver Sneakers, aquatics, Pilates, and cycle, Cecil recalls the moment he decided to pursue employment with the Y.

“I said to myself, ‘Cecil, you can either stay home or you can come and do something. Why not work here?’”

Cecil has been classified as disabled since 2010 due to cerebellar ataxia, a disorder that occurs when the cerebellum, which is responsible for controlling gait and muscle coordination, becomes inflamed or damaged.  Cecil’s disorder progressed slowly from braces, to a cane, to a walker.

Currently, Cecil works 19 hours per week for the YMCA and drives himself to work.

“I love what I do,” he says. “It’s a community of friends. And it gives me more of a purpose.”

Not only does Cecil show up, but he brings with him a spirit of drive and inspiration that he hopes to share with others. 

“We all have a story to tell. Whether it’s a large or small, we can always be an inspiration. I have always been an optimist against all odds. I always prefer to see the best in the world and most importantly, in people. I feel that God has given me a gift for touching people’s lives, encouraging others to be great, and not focusing on my physical condition.

May 9, 2003 is the day my life changed forever. I was involved in a head-on collision. I escaped the wreck with only a fractured wrist and a fractured finger. As the months passed on, my wrist pain continued, hence I was diagnosed with Peripheral Neuropathy.  I will never forget what the receptionist told me as I was signing out of the Outpatient Clinic: “You got more than you bargained for.” I didn’t pay it any mind in the beginning as I started on my research to find out the cause; but I still wasn’t experiencing any symptoms. 

As the years passed, I noticed progressive physical changes in my body. My nerves and muscles are weaker, pain and numbness in lower extremities and hands, and unpredictable gait flares (loss of balance). To this very day, the doctors still don’t know how to treat me or even find the cause of this disease.

In 2008, I became unemployed due to my health. With that crushing blow, there was no denying that my health was showing drastic changes in my work performance. More challenges followed on through the years, to the point that doing physical labor was out of the question. I currently use a walker to help keep my balance more stable.

All in all, I don’t know how this aliment originated, but I have, and will continue to battle through all the setbacks. Encouraging others builds my strength. My faith in God remains strong, and I know that I need Him and can do nothing without Him. God gives me the peace and strength I need to continue my journey, as he helps me to inspire others.

In my mind, I just want to be a positive voice and continue being a blessing to others. It’s not all about me, and I believe that I have an inspiring story that will continue to motivate and inspire others.  God is not done with me yet. I am willing to go and do His will, and He gets the glory for all that I do and all that I am.”
— - Cecil Williams

According to Cecil, he now has the best of “both worlds” – he’s found something to live for and something he loves to do. Today, in addition to working the wellness floor, Cecil has also volunteered for the Ironman for the past 2 years, and currently has a trainer to stay active.

 “By being more active here, I can be more active outside the Y,” he said.

We all have seasons of setbacks. Whether yours are seen or unseen, physical or emotional, or short term or long term, we ALL have the opportunity to use what might be seen as a weakness as a strength instead. When we do that… and share it with others, we not only grow as individuals, but we strengthen our community by letting others know that we’re all in this think called life together. And THAT builds a better us. A stronger us.

 Cecil’s advice to others? 

“Find something you are a part of,” he says.

 “I’m encouraged by others who come with challenges. I want them to know that they aren’t alone.”