A 5-year-old boy once approached Jeff Steinberg and in the simple, direct way children have, pointed at the hook Steinberg uses to grip a microphone.
“What’s that?” the boy wanted to know.
“I told him it’s a hook,” Steinberg said.
“What do you have that for?” the boy asked.
“Because I don’t have any hands,” came the answer.
“Why don’t you have any hands?”
“I used to bite my fingernails, and I went too far.”
Steinberg, who will visit Emmanuel Assembly of God church at Harveys Lake on Friday, said audiences usually laugh and relax when he tells that little story because his humor shows he’s comfortable with what many would see as a disability.
A singer and inspirational speaker, Steinberg was born without hands or arms and with malformed legs. He stands about 4 foot 6, much shorter than the 6-foot-8 passerby who once tapped him on the shoulder in a parking lot and asked “Are you driving that red Lincoln?”
“Yes,” Steinberg told him. “It’s too big to push.”
There’s that humor again. But there is a serious side to Steinberg’s message.
“I’m a masterpiece in progress,” he said. “I’ve thought about being made in God’s image. What exactly does that mean? I don’t believe my physical appearance is an accident. In my opinion I am created to be just as he imagined. That allows me to say to people, ‘You don’t have to feel sorry for me. I’m not a mistake. Now, what are you going to do with what he’s making out of you?’ “
“I am really hoping a lot of people come and hear Mr. Steinberg talk,” said the Rev. Lawrence. D. Reed, who invited the speaker to come to the church. “He’s going to touch a lot of hearts.”
Steinberg, 62, likes to encourage people, from church groups to school groups to prison inmates, no matter what sort of difficulties they face.
Over the years, he admits, he’s also enjoyed proving people wrong, especially when their expectations were low. His mother, for example, predicted he’d spend his life in an institution. His father told him he’d never be able to drive a car.
“I’ve driven too many miles to count,” Steinberg said. “I’m married. I have children. I’m a recording artist. I travel the world.”
Steinberg maintains two distinct websites, jeffsteinberg.net and tinygiant.com, in keeping with two styles of presentations he gives. One style is motivational with a “get-off-the-couch,” “work-toward-your-goals” message appropriate for public schools and other secular groups. The other style includes a spiritual dimension, with Steinberg talking about faith and his belief that, he is, to quote the Bible, “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
His local appearance on Friday at Emmanuel Assembly of God will be the spiritual presentation and will include Steinberg singing some songs written for him by his friend Jeffrey L. Rudloff.