Dan Caro has been proving the world wrong since he was in diapers. When he was two years old, he was engulfed in a fireball during a gasoline explosion in the family garage and was left with third-degree burns over most of his body—so severe that doctors held out little hope he’d survive more than a few days. Dan was in such excruciating pain that his devastated parents silently prayed for God to end their son’s suffering and welcome him into heaven. And it seemed as if God was willing to oblige—Dan technically died on the operating table several times in the hours following the accident.
But even though his heart stopped, Dan’s spirit wasn’t ready to give up . . . somehow he knew he had work to do. Despite the odds, Dan survived, but life would not be easy. The fire left him badly maimed and disfigured. His hands were burned away, as was most of his skin and nearly all of his face. He would endure years of painful surgeries and endless months of lonely isolation in burn units, only to suffer the agony of social rejection, shunned and called “monster” by both children and adults in his Louisiana hometown.
With the support of his loving parents and siblings, Dan did not despair. He kept his heart open to the world and focused on the positive energy around him. Before his sixth birthday, he vowed that his life would not be defined by the way others saw him or the restrictions of his so-called physical handicaps. Dan set himself a series of life goals, starting with the art of tying his shoelaces without fingers. Once he had achieved that milestone, he decided he could do anything . . . so why not learn to play the drums?
When Dan was told he’d never be able to do so, he promised himself that one day he’d become one of the most accomplished drummers in the city that gave jazz its name—New Orleans! Since that day, Dan’s music has inspired thousands, and many more have also been inspired by his personal philosophy of focusing on the positive, refusing to accept limits, and living life with an open heart. Today, the young man who was once shunned and called “monster” by his neighbors is very much in demand as a public speaker and travels the country encouraging others to not just overcome life’s hardships, but to view adversity as a gift that can drive us toward reaching our full potential.
The Gift of Fire is Dan’s first book.
This week you’ll have the opportunity to get a copy of Dan Caro’s life story—The Gift of Fire: How I Made Adversity Work for Me. Dan is a professional jazz drummer and inspirational speaker and a man of exquisite courage and spirit. You saw him play the drums on my most recent PBS special Excuses Begone! Dan banished excuses as a tiny child when he survived an injury by fire that destroyed both of his hands and almost took his life. Dan survived and grew up loving music and wanting to be a musician. He found a way to play the drums and play them well, proving to the world that the only limits in life are those you create for yourself. When Dan isn’t playing jazz in his native city of New Orleans, he is traveling the country encouraging others not just to overcome life’s hardships, but to view adversity as a gift that can drive us toward reaching our full potential. Dan is passing on the love and support that buoyed him up through the years, giving his all to life in a way that few of us are challenged to do. Dan also serves as an Ambassador for the Shriners of North America, whose hospitals provide specialized medical care for children, including treatment for burn victims. Think of Dan the next time you are tempted to pull out that ever-popular excuse “It will be difficult.” Dan took the gift of fire and used it to fuel the powerful spirit of his extraordinary life.
In 1992 when the time came to write a dedication for my book Real Magic, I decided to recognize three special people—my dear daughter Saje, my spiritual brother Deepak Chopra, and my friend pop superstar Michael Jackson. I wanted to recognize Michael “whose words, music, and love remind us that it is only through giving that we are saving our own lives.” Michael Jackson had a special relationship with the principles of Real Magic, the idea of “creating miracles in everyday life.” With his enormous musical talent, he created a body of work that brought joy to millions. My children and I spent five very happy days with him at Neverland in 1991. He wanted to talk to me about “real magic,” but the truth is, he already had the magic—the power he needed to dream and create and give. Michael was dedicated to ending world hunger and helped create the 1985 “We Are the World” celebrity sing-along that brought together some of the biggest names in popular music to raise funds for famine relief in Africa. I didn’t have to explain “real magic” to Michael because he was already a spiritual being, already kind, loving, and ready to use his musical gift to create miracles. Along with millions of people around the world, I say, thank you, Michael, for sharing your amazing talent to lift our spirits. I’ll remember you as a beautiful human being with a heart as big as the sky.