Think of it: An active, athletic, 18-year old college student enjoying a day at the pool. He takes a dive into the clear, blue water and hits his head at the bottom. Long after, he recalls that he somehow immediately knew he had severely injured his spine, and he was right. His spinal cord was broken, and he would remain paralyzed from the neck down for the remainder of his life.
This young boy was Charles Krauthammer who within weeks set about arranging for his college classes to be televised on the ceiling above his hospital bed where he lay for months. Undaunted, he graduated with high honors and went on to earn a medical degree, practicing psychiatry for several years. Later, he chose to go into politics and became a popular political television commentator — all the while unable to move his body.
Krauthammer once famously said, “You simply go with the hand you are dealt by life and take it to the limit.” He did just that!
Now, isn’t that an amazing and exciting way to view those innumerable limitations that all of us face — of one degree of severity or another. Adversity stalks us all.
This same kind of paralyzing spinal injury was the fate of Christopher Reeve, the star of the movie “Superman.” Years after breaking his back falling from a horse, he later wrote his poignant life story titled “I’m Still Me.” Like Charles Krauthammer, he lived for decades completely dependent on others.
And it was Helen Keller who was struck totally deaf and blind as a tiny girl and who triumphed over both unimaginable handicaps, becoming a famous writer and lecturer, living to the age of 87! Her story is told in the dramatic and award-winning movie “The Miracle Worker.”
Yet another modern-day example of unrelenting stamina is that of the prominent architect, Chris Downey, who suddenly and completely lost his sight in 2008. His story was featured recently on the CBS News program “60 Minutes.” This renowned architect refused to let his handicap dictate what the rest of his life would be. Instead, he has learned everything he needed to know to be able to say, “In many ways, I’m a better architect today than I was before I lost my sight.” Unbelievable!
These are just a few of many examples that serve to remind us of the incredible resilience of the human spirit!
It was Christ who said: “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” — this from he, who in his incomprehensible Atonement in Gethsemane, experienced all the pain and sorrow of the human race “descending below all things.” In so doing, he understands all that any of us will ever face in our turn to prove ourselves here on earth.
Like so many amazing human beings that we learn from in our lives, many who have experienced unimaginable adversity, each of us — as they have done — has a choice each day as to how we will grapple with our own individual challenges — whatever they may be. We can choose to “take it to the limit,” as Charles Krauthammer once said.
So many others — most importantly our Savior — have shown us the way.
Dean & Nancy Hoch are on the Community Council of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.