Jim Stovall

Jim StovallMY ULTIMATE GIFT  

My name is Jim Stovall and I was a National Champion weightlifter, I am the President of the Emmy award-winning Narrative Television Network, a successful author, and a highly sought-after speaker. He wrote the best-selling book, The Ultimate Gift, which is now a major motion picture starring James Garner and Abigail Breslin. But what looks like just another amazing success story is all the more incredible because Jim Stovall is blind.

 

As a kid, Jim Stovall loved sports—especially football. He grew up going to church, but it wasn’t until he got bad news from the doctor that he got serious about his faith.  

"I remember they took me down a long hall and they said, 'Jim, we don’t know why, and we don’t know when, but we do know someday you’re going to be totally blind, and there’s nothing we can do about it,' " says Jim. 

"And at age 17, my ambition in life was to become a professional football player. I found out very quickly doing some quick research at that time and to this very day, there’s never been a blind guy in the NFL, so I realized I was going to have to do something else. And all of a sudden you go from religion to relationship in a big hurry."

"All of that faith and God stuff is okay on Sunday mornings until you have a life crisis, until you really need something. I realized that there were some things that were not going to be a part of my life, and so I started focusing very hard on the things that were going to be a part of my life," he says. 

One of the things Jim realized he could do was lift weights. 

"I had lifted weights in training, just to prepare for football, and I had seen some competitive weightlifters at a state fair I went to one time. They were an exhibition team from the Olympics and I thought, 'That’s something I could do.' " 

Jim’s persistence and determination paid off. He was U.S. National Amateur Champion twice and trained for the 1980 Olympics. But determination alone wasn’t enough to get him through a bigger hurdle—college. 

"I was losing my sight more and more. I got to the point where I couldn’t read, and I couldn’t get around well anymore, and the vision was fading a 

Jim says he lost more than his sight; he lost his vision. 

"Sight is a precious thing, but compared to vision, it’s really nothing, because people perish for lack of vision.  People can live well without sight." little more each day," he remembers. 

Soon he was flunking out of school, but what started out as a huge problem brought Jim one of the biggest blessings of his life: his wife, Crystal. 

"The university had made arrangements for someone to read textbooks for me, and she was one of those people. And after we met, and she started reading these for me, I told the university, 'Why don’t we just focus on this one?  This is the only reader I need.' ” 

Jim and Crystal graduated at the top of their class. Neither one had concrete plans for the future, but Jim was sure of one thing... 

"Nobody was really interested in this visually impaired guy that was going be totally blind and so I just told Crystal, 'I need to go into business for myself. That way I’ll always have a job, and they won’t fire me because I’ll be in charge,' and that’s about all I knew about it. And I got an opportunity to start selling stocks and bonds with a New York stock exchange firm."

"Well, when I started in the brokerage business, she [Crystal] worked with me all day every day, just like we had done in college. And that’s the only way we knew how to do things," says Jim.

With Crystal as his eyes and with his drive for excellence, Jim quickly moved to the top of his field. And then, the bottom fell out. 

"I remember waking up one morning, and I stepped into the bathroom and turned on the bright light and looked in the mirror, and I couldn’t see anything ... the bright light, the mirror, nothing. And I realized, that’s it, I have now reached the bottom of this. And I actually went into this little 9 x 12 room at the back of my house. And I really fully intended never to walk out of that little room again."

"And then one day, I just woke up and realized whatever it is out there that I’m afraid of, can’t be a lot worse than spending the rest of your life in this little 9 x 12 foot room. And as soon as the fear of not trying gets to be bigger than the fear of failing, we move. And the first day I walked out of that room, I didn’t get a Gold medal or an Emmy award; I walked 52 feet to the mailbox. And that was the day that changed my life." 

Jim was conquering his fear, but he still didn’t have a plan of action for the future. It was in the room where he once thought he would die that Jim discovered his life’s purpose. 

"One day out of just sheer boredom, sitting there, broke and blind and scared, I put on this old movie I had seen so many times. I thought I’ll just be able to listen and follow along. And sitting there listening to that, I could kind of imagine what was going on. But then, somebody shot somebody, and somebody screamed, and the car sped away, and I forgot what happened, and I got really frustrated. And I said the magic words. I said, 'Somebody ought to do something about that.' ”

"That was the beginning of narrative television. We take television shows and movies and add an extra soundtrack to them, and it makes them accessible to13 million blind and visually impaired people all over the United States and millions more around the world," says Jim.   

Less than a year after starting the Narrative Television Network, Jim won an Emmy for expertise in broadcast engineering. He spoke to groups about Narrative Television and shared his own personal story whenever he could. Jim soon became one of the most sought after speakers in the United States. 

That led to a career as an author. Jim has written more than a dozen books so far, including The Ultimate Gift, which was made into a major motion picture. 

"Before I lost my sight and before I started pursuing things in my life that are bigger than me, I was a religious person. And after losing my sight and pursuing things that are far out of my comfort zone, I had to get out of religion and get into relationship with Jesus Christ, he says. "And if you pursue that higher calling and seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all these other things will be added unto you." 

Jim Stovall-Blind Guy Meets Deaf Guy Story 

 

The Christopher Story

Hearing His Voice Testimony

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