Sunday, April 10, 2016

     Several years ago, a colleague whom I did not like at all, approached me in the hallway at our high school. I had recently endured an ugly divorce and custody battle, and I was feeling my wounds inside daily. She said to me, “You are so strong. I really admire you.” I thought I had misheard her. “Strong?” I exclaimed, knowing that I had been crying my eyes out nightly and working out on my mini-trampoline at 4:00 a.m. so I could get rid of my anxiety before getting in my car to head to school. “Yes,” she continued. “You come to school with a smile on your face every day, and regardless of what you are going through, you never let it show. Just being here is remarkable, but cheerful, that’s amazing. I don’t know how strong I am. I have never been tested.”

     I will never forget that encounter, as it was one of the most validating remarks I had ever heard. I almost felt guilty not liking her. It made me realize a few things. First, there is good in all people, likable or not. Secondly, there are many who have not yet been tested, but we are all tested at some point in our lives. Finally, we never know who’s watching, judging or admiring, but people do. As someone once said, “Be who you want to see.” Apparently, I was in those day “being” what I wanted to see, even though I felt like I was dying inside. My tears were not those of remorse; they were tears of exhaustion and stress, and they let out a lot of poison.

     Now, thirty years later, after being tested many times, I have witnessed friends and acquaintances facing crises I cannot even fathom. I gasp at their strength and their resolve to endure. I have watched people suffer physically from unimaginable illnesses, and I have watched friends lose their loved ones and model grace in their determination to move on alone. Strength? We all define it in our own way. How strong are you? Have you been tested? What are your resources should you be tested tomorrow?