By Sue Curry Jones
Overcoming adversity is one of life’s many challenges. In the hustle and bustle of every day life, there is always the likelihood something will go askew.
We have all experienced how day-to-day activities generally do not go as planned, and even the most well thought out day or month can be sidetracked or derailed. Life is not perfect, and neither is the world we live in.
When we look at history, there are many amazing stories of individuals who beat the odds to overcome the impossible. They chose to never give up. They stayed true to their goals, and refused to embrace the negative. Most generally their high level of tenacity was fueled by the fact someone believed in them. They had positive support from someone who took time to care.
One of those great achievers and overcomers was Wilma Rudolph. At the age of four, Wilma became ill with several episodes of polio, pneumonia and scarlet fever, and during that time in the 1940s, treatment was limited. As her difficulties progressed, the doctor said she would never walk again.
As a child, she was forced to wear braces, as both legs were too weak for walking. But according to news accounts of her life, Wilma chose not to believe the doctor’s diagnosis, but instead chose to believe her mother’s words of encouragement. Her mother knowingly said Wilma would definitely walk again.
Wilma also had plenty of family support as she had 22 brothers and sisters who were willing to assist in her care, massage her legs and help her stay active.
By age 11, Wilma was playing basketball, and with unbridled persistence, she continued on to become a recognized athlete in high school. After high school, she attended college where her athleticism and talent grew as she excelled in sports.
Wilma qualified as an international track star winning her first Olympic medal in 1956. During the 1960 Olympics, she won three gold medals and broke several world records and became the first American woman to win medals in the track and field competition division. Her wins and outstanding accomplishments earned her the title of “the fastest woman in the world.”
As an African American woman Wilma faced and overcame many barriers, but it seems that much of her strength and tenacity was born out of the positive mindset her mother shared with her at a young age. An attitude that prevailed in her life, as it was lived out in the actions of support by her siblings and family members.
Wilma’s life story shows how important it is to nurture and deposit positive seeds of encouragement in our children. To let kids know they have our support, that we are willing to invest in their goals and dreams. It is also important they have a secure and strong self-image, an inner strength that allows them to conquer and overcome obstacles when the world is constantly saying no.
There is no doubt Wilma Rudolph endured bullying and discrimination, especially during that time in history. But, with the loving support of family, the determination of a devoted mother, and the help of teachers and coaches, she overcame many challenges and obstacles and went on to achieve great things.
Positive support and encouraging words definitely make a difference. As does a compassionate heart.
Perhaps Leo Buscaglia says it best, “I’ve always thought that people need to feel good about themselves, and I see my role as offering support to them, to provide some light along the way.”
Making the commitment to lift others up each and every day may be the best exercise ever –– especially for the heart.