She lived with her family in an expensive subdivision. She was pretty and thin and wearing designer clothing whose names I cannot pronounce. I think she was 16 or 17 years old, with the rest of her life ahead of her.
He lived at a homeless shelter—Hesed House—with a couple hundred other “homeless people.” He was a middle-aged man with clothing from the local clothes closet. I think he drank too much, and he also had the rest of his life ahead of him.
She was at the shelter with a program that brought teenagers with anorexia to volunteer at the shelter. The goal was to help them gain a new orientation to food and stop viewing it as the enemy.
He was living at Hesed House because he didn’t have anywhere else to go.
She was serving homemade double-fudge brownies—which must be tough if you struggle with anorexia.
He casually walked up to her and started talking.
The entirety of their exchange went something like this:
Him: “You are capable of greatness, whether you realize it now or not.”
Her: (Startled, but not offended look)
Him: “Don’t believe people when they say that you can’t. Don’t believe yourself when you say that you can’t.”
Her: (meekly) “Thank you.”
Him: “We are not defined by our wounds.”
(He shakes her hand. She gives him a brownie, and he goes back to his table.)
I asked him how he knew an eating disorder group was volunteering that night.
He didn’t know anything about the group.
He could spot self-doubt from across the room.
He could tell that she was in pain.
He knew that she needed to be reminded of her potential.
I never asked him how he knew all that.
I suppose his own pain and self-doubt made him acutely aware of the suffering of others.
In her wounds he saw his own.
And he was, of course, right.
We do not have to be defined by:
- Our wounds
- Our scars
- Our pain
- Our failures
- Our weakest moments
- Our deepest disappointments
We can—if we choose—define ourselves by the strength it took us to heal.
(My wife, Krissie, is a seven-time cancer survivor, and her strength is interwoven in her identity).
The world will try to reduce you down to your lowest point.
Don’t let it.