Mon. May 16th, 2022

People’s lives change, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. In 2008, Chris Dittrich, suffered a near fatal car accident. A resident of West Windsor, New Jersey, Dittrich was on his way back from lunch when he was going too fast around a curve. Subsequently, he hit a tree, and smacked his head hard enough to the point where he was in a coma for a month. When he finally did come to, his tedious journey to recovery would begin.

Dittrich admitted he was bitter for sometime after, but has no regrets that the car accident happened.

“I woke up one day and my right side was paralyzed, and I had no idea what had happened. I went through those phases where I was angry, I was upset. But now, I’m in that stage where I know why. I feel like everything happens for a reason. We all have the power to overcome our difficulties and I want to help others do that.”

Dittrich went on to say, “March 3rd, 2008 was the best day of my life. I’m not physically perfect, but I am so much more mentally there. I’m just a more ready and prepared person for whatever is going to come next and I am more here for the people – to help others.”

After the accident, Chris was remarkably able to participate at graduation, with the assistance of his dad escorting him onto the stage. He would then proceed to take a year off from school, and subsequently apply to schools down south, in the warm weather. He would decide on the University of Miami, where he could continue his rigorous physical therapy with the hope of getting better one day.

“I felt kind of welcomed at Miami, it seemed like people were happier down there,” he said.

Though the decision was easy to make, the first year or so was not easy. “My freshman year, I was in awful shape. I struggled walking to classes.”

Chris’ dad, who he calls his hero, would help him out for important doctor appointments and come down there in times of need. Now, Chris often jokes with his dad that he shouldn’t have been sent to school that year because of the poor shape he was in.  The dreadful situation allowed Chris to truly understand the meaning of hard work. The experience humbled Chris and he knew that if he could make it through this that others could too.

This past fall, the 24-year-old created a Facebook page called “Change the World with Me?” where its goal is to help people share inspiring stories. He wants to try and get his message across as best he can to as many people as possible.

“People find it amazing; they can’t believe some of my stories. That’s why I started the group, but I don’t want to push my own stories, I don’t want it to seem like self promotion. I’m posting other stories that are not necessarily about similar injuries, but circumstances and situations of some sort that we are all in.”

The page currently has close to 800 members and has continued to grow since its inception. The goal of the page is ultimately to share stories that are inspirational and ones that promote good deeds. It’s the small acts of kindness that can make the biggest difference and in turn can work like a domino effect. Dittrich sees it a little bit like the movie “Pay It Forward,” where others will feel compelled to act generously from hearts.

A small example, that Chris pointed out occurred when he saw a homeless man outside the CVS. Dittrich didn’t have any cash on him, but without hesitation, he invited the man into the store with him to buy him groceries and whatever else he wanted. He described the man’s look on his face to be priceless- like he had just won the lottery. A man who was sitting in his car saw what happened, appreciated the situation and gave the man a little money too- to help out. The homeless man said that it was the best day of his life.

“You never know when that little bit is going to push someone over the edge to get him to do something better, you can save a life by spending 15 minutes,” Dittrich said.

Dittrich wants more people to participate in these types of acts whenever possible and he sees that as a gateway for a more compassionate society. He hopes that this page sparks others to share similar stories that help motivate people- to accomplish these sorts of feats.

He wants people to share these stories and apply it to their lives. After surviving the near fatal accident, Chris has nothing to promote but joy and jubilation.  “I am the happiest person in the world and it’s my job to make everyone as happy as I am. Even if you have unrealistic goals, and you don’t achieve them, you’re going to get somewhere close.”

He admits, though, sometimes it’s hard to get people on board to join- even his friends.

“They’re a little hesitant sometimes but I just want everyone to share because that’s how things can change for the better.”

Dittrich likes to remain active in the community and has traveled to many places to help others. While in Belize, he broke his collar bone while playing games with some kids. This was just weeks before he was scheduled to participate in a charity bike race. As a result, he would have to endure surgery, but was still able to participate in the bike race. Though it was unpleasant, Chris would persevere and end up biking 35 miles as part of a charity event for the Miami Project. The project has the goal of finding a cure for paralysis. It was founded and funded by former Dolphin Nick Buoniconti. Dittrich was able to help raise a remarkable 30,000 dollars as part of the event.

Chris has been through tough hardships, which helps him better understand people of all sorts, something that the ‘Change the World with Me?’ page hopes to accomplish. “I’ve been at the low of the low; I have empathy for every type of person.”

He has made tremendous progress from where he came from. With the hard work of physical therapy in Miami, he went from being able to walk with his father at his high school graduation, to the point where he can now moderately run and even throw a ball.

Chris has recently started taking lessons in how to become a public speaker, and was invited to go to the Florida Speaker’s Association, which meets once a month. Here he will be able to learn how to become a more polished talker, as he wants to reach out to groups all over. People can learn from what he has learned, which is what he would hope others would take away from his speeches. This would be a dream come true for him because it would be the ultimate way of paying it forward.

“We the people need to bring about the change, laws can’t change the people. We ourselves have to do it. Obviously, it’s a very idealistic point of view, but any little bit can help.”

When asked what his idea of changing the world would be he replied, “I just want to start a movement with people being more optimistic and overcoming adversity, as they strive to reach their goals. I want it to be a chain reaction, where people help each other. That would be immeasurable.”

Dittrich has gone from his life being changed dramatically in the blink of an eye, to trying to change the world one step at a time by whatever means possible.

Evan R. Smith is a fourth-year student majoring in political science with minors in international business, business and technical writing, and Spanish. He can be reached at LW738484@wcupa.edu

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