Poet Christian Wiman, some time after being diagnosed with an incurable form of blood cancer, reflected on his ordeal, writing, “I have passed through pain I could never have imagined, pain that seemed to incinerate all my thoughts of God and to leave me sitting there in the ashes, alone.” But he found hope in the powerful presence of Jesus. “I am a Christian because of that moment on the cross when Jesus, drinking the very dregs of human bitterness, cries out, ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’ ” (Matthew 27:46). In times of great suffering, Wiman realized, only the One who carried all human suffering can sustain us.
One day Dan McConchie was riding his motorcycle when a car unexpectedly came into his lane and forced him into oncoming traffic. When he woke up two weeks later in the trauma center, he was a mess. Along with a deflated lung and broken bones, he’d suffered a spinal-cord injury that left him a paraplegic. Dan prayed for healing, but it never came. Yet in the midst of this tragedy he experienced peace and learned a profound lesson: “Life isn’t for our comfort. Instead, the purpose of this life is that we become conformed to the image of Christ. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen when everything is unicorns and rainbows. It instead happens when life is tough.”
Brazilian runner Vanderlei de Lima went to Athens to compete in the Olympic marathon. On the last leg of the race, he was in first place. But suddenly a spectator bolted from the crowd and attacked de Lima. He didn’t injure the runner, but the assault lost him precious time and ultimately his hopes for a gold medal. Despite the unfortunate incident and ache in his heart, de Lima finished the race well, even winning the bronze medal. He crossed the finish line with joy—exhibiting a wide smile and dance moves.
Dr. Jamie Aten, a cancer survivor who researches how people respond to trauma, intimated that when going through adversity, perspective is everything. After Superstorm Sandy ravaged Seaside Heights, New Jersey (USA), one of Aten’s colleagues was deployed to help with relief efforts. She met a man whose roof had been blown away by the strong winds. Instead of wallowing in pessimism, the man gave some surprisingly optimistic advice: “Sometimes, you have to lose the roof to see the stars.” This man chose to see joyful meaning even in a great hardship.
A man from the Netherlands fell for a Chinese woman he met online. Impatient to meet her, he booked a flight and flew 5,000 miles for a visit. He’d sent her his itinerary, but when he arrived at the airport, she wasn’t there. The man, however, was so determined that he waited for her at the airport in China for ten days! Definitely a patient guy, though his faith in his love interest may have been misplaced.
First words can be significant and transformative. The first words ever heard over a telephone were spoken by Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the new technology. On March 10, 1876, Bell called his assistant, Thomas Watson, and said: “Mr. Watson, come here.” On March 21, 2006, Jack Dorsey composed the very first words on Twitter, that “global water-cooler meeting place” of news and culture. It was a succinct message: “Just setting up my twttr.”
Many years ago, a love-struck groom on a military base penned a love letter to his young bride. But then the letter was lost by the postal service. Forty-six years later, a crew dismantling an old post office discovered it. They turned it over to the postmaster who found the man and his wife and gave it to them days after their fiftieth wedding anniversary! The love expressed in the letter had endured the test of several decades.
Age shouldn’t stop anyone from making a big impact. It certainly didn’t stop ten-year-old Mikaila Ulmer. Instead of putting up a lemonade stand, Mikaila opened a lemonade business. Her company BeeSweet Lemonade started with her grandmother’s recipe and led to her pitching a business plan on the popular TV program Shark Tank. Mikaila was granted a $60,000 investment and has also signed a contract to sell her lemonade in fifty-five stores of a major grocery chain.
Getting a group of people to move in the same way and at the same time requires a lot of skill. But more than 31,000 dancers in China made it look easy. Guinness World Records says that 31,697 Chinese women set the record for mass plaza dancing in multiple locations. The participants danced for more than five minutes in six different cities.
It was a regular Monday evening at a senior care facility. Hamburgers were on the menu, and an 87-year-old named Patty was eating hers when she began to choke. But just in the nick of time, another resident came to the rescue and did the Heimlich maneuver on her—saving the day. That resident was none other than 96-year-old Dr. Henry Heimlich himself, the doctor who is widely credited with inventing the procedure. For Patty’s sake, it was a good thing that Dr. Heimlich actually modeled what he taught!
Julie Stroyne, a trauma nurse, had just gotten married and immediately after the reception was walking with her wedding party in downtown Pittsburgh. Suddenly she spotted an unconscious woman on a bench. Still in her wedding dress, Stroyne kicked off her shoes and jumped into action in an effort to save the woman’s life. It didn’t matter that she was celebrating her wedding. As a nurse, she was ready to serve.
Sometimes you have to risk your life to save a life. That’s exactly what some pilots did when two workers at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station became ill. The only way to ensure their recovery was through a daring rescue mission. A spokesman stated that it was “the darkest and coldest of all past missions to the South Pole for medical evacuation.” Due to the harsh conditions, planes don’t usually go to the outpost between the months of February and October. But the pilots were undaunted. “The courage of the pilots to make the flight in extremely harsh conditions is incredible and inspiring,” said a fellow station worker.
In 2015 a city decided it was time to clean up something that was attracting unwanted visitors. So a maintenance crew began the tedious work of removing more than one million pieces of gum—weighing more than a ton—stuck to the iconic “Gum Wall.” What began twenty years before, when patrons began sticking gum on the wall while waiting in line for the local theater, had turned into a popular tourist attraction. Unfortunately, the wall was also popular with the local rat population!
When France’s ministry of health realized that 17.8 percent of French women smoked while pregnant, they came up with a plan. For a trial period of thirty-six months, seventeen French hospitals paid women up to 300 euros to stop smoking during their pregnancies. Of the 612 participants, 22.5 percent of the women gave up their cigarettes.
John Oliver, the host of HBO’s popular TV show Last Week Tonight, made the news when he forgave fifteen million dollars in debt. He did this to show the unsavory nature of buying debt and collecting on it. He purchased the massive debt at the price of just $.004 for every dollar. Because he owned the debt, Oliver had the legal right to collect it. Instead, he generously abolished it.