Brett Bell, a freshman from North Little Rock, Arkansas, may have hearing loss, but rather than viewing this as a setback, he embraces it as his identity and opportunity to help other people. Bell was born completely deaf in one ear with 75% hearing in his other ear and received a cochlear implant and a hearing aid in the first grade, but he welcomes his differences and views his disability as an opportunity to live out his faith.
“I wouldn’t be who I am today without my cochlear implant or hearing aid. I feel like God has called me to be a light, and I can show God through that,” Bell said. “Christian people who have a disability ask ‘why has God done this to me?’ and I can help them understand that God has called them to a good purpose.”
Although being deaf has shaped a large part of his life, Bell shows others through leadership that you can overcome any challenge to lead a life of encouragement. When Bell was younger, professionals believed that he would not survive to adulthood. He was one of the first people to have a hearing aid and cochlear implant, which had unforeseen effects when he received them. Now, he has completed high school, played football and led in church.
Bell is thankful for his parents’ guidance in shaping his faith. They expressed patience and love by driving him to appointments and offering continual encouragement. Bell was inspired by his father, Harding alumnus Randy Bell, to pursue a dual degree in accounting and information systems. He loves being able to see his sister, junior Brynne Bell, on campus as well.
“Early in his childhood, Brett’s speech therapists and physical therapists and other doctors thought he wouldn’t even make it past the first grade because of his conditions, but now he’s graduated high school, in college, making good grades, and in a social club,” says Brynne Bell. “Over the past few years, I’ve seen him embrace his deafness in a real encouraging way. He is truly one of the best people that I know. He loves everyone and is a light that can brighten anyone’s day.”
As his first semester at Harding concludes, Bell reflects on the atmosphere and community that Harding offered him. He enjoys the tight-knit community, where you can walk across campus, say “hello” and share a smile to brighten someone’s day. Bell’s favorite campus activities include playing intramural sports and spending time with his brothers from men’s social club Gamma Sigma Phi. He is eager to experience more of life at Harding while being a light to those around him. Bell also has become well known for posting reminders for prayer and reading scripture each night on social media.
“Be patient because your time is coming. I have learned that God will provide what you need to do,” says Bell. “Be more encouraging because people need more encouragement. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone because they want to help.”
If there was one lesson that has stuck with Bell throughout his life, it has been the importance of wise counsel and encouragement from the people around him. To reciprocate, Bell tries to offer that encouragement to those in his life as well, showing others Christ’s love reflected in him.