Kacey McCallister lost his legs as a 6-year-old little boy leaving his uncle’s mission farewell. He ran across the road wearing cowboy boots and was struck by a semi-truck. Miraculously, Kacey survived the accident but in the days and weeks following the accident, Kacey’s parents sought to help their son thrive in his life moving forward. But, following the advice of doctors and nurses, they did this in an unconventional way: by not helping Kacey with anything.
In this week’s episode of All In, Kacey shares how this conscious choice by his parents changed his life and why he believes self-reliance is vital to helping us reach our full potential.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Jones Pearson: Well Kacey, I do think your life obviously was preserved for a reason. And I love seeing the way that you have taken advantage of that and have made no excuses along the way. I wondered as I watched some videos to prep for our interview, I noticed that most of the time when you’re speaking, you’re speaking to secular audiences, schools, or companies. And so, I wondered how do you think the gospel helped your family through this experience?
Kacey McCallister: Well, honestly my mom, even before the accident, she had a premonition that something bad was going to happen. And … eventually, she knew one of her kids was going to die. And so when this happened, she had been prepared by Heavenly Father. In fact, when it happened, and everybody was trying to shield her and protect her, she was like, “It’s okay, I’m fine. I knew I was going to lose one of my children,” you know, and so she was already prepared. And so when I lived, it was, you know, everybody else is going through this trauma, even my uncle who came down [and saw me the day after the accident], he’s like, “How could God allow this to happen?” And he was pretty broken up over it. And then he went right out from there, after seeing me and saw my mom. And she said, “I am so grateful that I get to raise my child.” And so, the eternal perspective that she had blows my mind to this day—how she was prepared, and just the strength from the gospel that my mom was able to have through this process. You know, my dad’s a little more reserved [with his] feelings. He was probably trying to just keep everybody together and just be there for everybody. But he was there giving blessings and just having that priesthood strength nearby. The whole process was very much directed by Heavenly Father. And we all felt that and, I mean when I woke up, and my mom was there, and I reached down to where my legs should have been, and my mom says, “Kacey, your legs aren’t there anymore.” I nodded and kind of laid back down. I mean, that was the extent of “Oh, no, I lost my legs.” And we’ve all believed and know that I have a purpose and that doesn’t mean that life has been easy in any sense of the word. But knowing that my heavenly Father knows me, for one, and not only that, [but] is guiding my life a little bit is a lot of it. It has been a huge strength for me.
Morgan Jones Pearson: That’s beautiful. One thing I loved about your story is that the doctors gave your mom a very important piece of advice. And that was to not do anything for you. When you think about how much that one piece of advice or counsel has changed your life, what kind of gratitude do you feel toward that doctor that told your mom that?
Kacey McCallister: It was really interesting, I got to go and speak to a bunch of nurses from that hospital years and years later, when I was an adult and already speaking for a living. And I talked to them because I have heard so many people go through trauma [where] the doctor said that they would never, you know, such and such and such and such, and [they] proved [the doctors] wrong. [But my] doctors pretty much gave my parents the exact opposite advice. “He will be able to do everything possible.” And I talked to the nurses during that time and they said, “Yeah, that’s our go-to answer—that it will be up to you to determine what they’re able to do with their lives.” I have an immense amount of gratitude for all the people, doctors, and nurses that made sure that my parents didn’t [do everything for me]. They’re pretty stubborn and independent when it comes to how they raised their kids anyway, so I don’t [think] that that totally changed everything. But that is the message that they definitely took to heart. And they made sure that I could do anything I needed to do.
In fact, one [time] my uncle was out of the house and I wanted to show him something, I don’t know, maybe a new toy. But anyway, I brought him into my room and the light was off. And so I said, “Hey, Uncle Kirk, can you turn on the light?” And so he goes to turn on the light. And my dad smacks his hand away and says, ”Don’t you dare!” And he was kind of ticked off. He’s like, “Bernie, don’t be a jerk, just turn on the light.” And my dad says, “He has to do it.” And I couldn’t reach it. I was pretty short, I’d just lost my legs, and I couldn’t reach the light switch. And he’s like, “Well, you’ve got to figure out a way.” And so I looked around the room and came up with a little baseball bat and used that to turn on the light. But that is so exactly how my parents made sure that I could do absolutely anything. I mean, I was playing baseball within months after losing my legs. I mean, my dad was pushing me around the bases because I was still pretty weak and slow at that time.
And that was kind of a hallmark of my parents—like, “You will do it, you’ll find a way, you’re never gonna say can’t do it. But if you need help, we are here to help.”