By Bishop Michael Goings
I recently became more vividly aware of a courageous struggle that is being waged by a man with whom I am quite familiar. His name is Terry White, and he served (when he was able) as a deacon in our church in Florence.
Regrettably, he inherited a deadly disease (Huntington’s disease) that claimed the lives of his father and two of his siblings.
This horrible condition has completely disabled him and made him completely dependent on others. A first cousin of his, who is more like a brother, has assumed the responsibility (along with his wife) of being his primary caregivers. According to them, from the onset of discovering that he had this disease which he acquired from his father, he has refused to complain or feel sorry for himself. Ray (Terry’s first cousin) told me that long before this even when they were teenagers. Terry was not one who would complain or grumble about the hardships of life. He faced tough times with optimism and a smile.
Hearing the following words of Terry, “You don’t stop playing the game because you were dealt a bad hand,” impacted me so that I immediately knew I had to tell his story and that of many like him who are going through much adversity and difficulties without bellyaching, bickering or bitterness.
In my line of work, I come across so many people who complain about every little difficulty and are specialist in turning molehills into mountains, mice into mammoths, and little challenges into life threatening conflicts.
Such people hardly ever consider others with whom they are familiar who are going through much more than what they are experiencing, but yet without complaining, self-pity, or finger pointing. Terry’s situation and story really roused me and got me to thinking about the many people of whom I know, living and dead, who hung in there despite facing extreme hardships and challenges.
The following are but a few of them who are worthy of citing and commending.
Political scientist and historians agree in their assessment of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as being one of our greatest Presidents. As our 32nd President, he came into office at a critical period in our nation’s history. When he took the helm of being Commander-in-Chief, the Great Depression was still in effect and war was looming in Europe. He is credited for guiding America back to economic solvency and stability as well as leading us through most of World War Two. However, what many did not know was that he was engaged in a constant battle with polio during most of his incumbency. This condition partially paralyzed him and thus made him dependent on a wheelchair, crutches and the aide of others to stand. Nevertheless, it is a matter of history and well reported by those who were around him that he never complained, or allowed self-pity to possess him. He never stopped playing the game because he had been dealt a bad hand. He hung in there and
helped to save the world from economic ruin and fascism and Nazism.
A Girl Named Joni
One of my favorite and most heroic living persons is a woman named Joni Eareckson Tada. As an athletic and adventurous seventeen year old, she suffered a fracture between the fourth and fifth cervical levels and became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down due to a diving accident that occurred in the Chesapeake Bay. During her two years of rehabilitation according to her autobiography, she experienced anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, and religious doubts. However, Tada learned to paint with a brush between her teeth and began selling her artwork. To date, she has written over forty books, recorded several musical albums, starred in an autobiographical movie of her life and is an advocate for disabled people. Joni Eareckson Tada’s resilient spirit and tenacity to hang in there certifies her as a heroic person worthy of imitating.
A Fighter from Gaddy’s Mill
One of the most inspiring people, I personally know who personifies what I am endeavoring to share here lives right here in Dillon County. Her name is Mary Helen Ford and she was rendered a paraplegic from an operation on her back in 1988. I have had the privilege of being her pastor for well over twenty years and can truly say that from the time of this unfortunate procedure that left her paralyzed from the waist down, I have never heard her complain, indulge in self-pity or finger pointing. She has proven to be both resilient and resourceful and refused to allow her condition to handicap her. She would not permit herself to become inactive and dependent upon others. She learned to drive her van that was specially designed for people with her condition. She still goes spot fishing from piers along the coast when the season is ripe and the schools are running. She sells Avon products and is extremely busy preparing taxes for many who rely upon her
for her expertise in this area when tax time arrives. She’s almost always on time for weekly church gatherings and leads our Noonday Prayer meetings every Tuesday. Mary is a living testimony and model to all of us of what it means to hang in there. I have cited her example quite a few times over the years when dealing with crybabies, quitters and those who indulged in self-pity. Many have (to their credit) kissed complaining goodbye after considering and comparing their challenges and contradictions to people like Mary whose condition and struggles have been extremely more severe and debilitating. There’s a traditional gospel song that is very relevant to what we are considering here to which I want to allude in my conclusion. It is entitled, “I Won’t Give up.”
I won’t give up. I won’t let folks get me down.
I’ll keep on pressing my way to higher ground.
The road gets rough. The hills are hard to climb.
But I can make it to the finish line if I don’t give up.