Saturday, December 3, 2022

True strength lives in mind

October 21, 2012

Editor’s Note: Views expressed in guest columns and letters to the editor reflect the views of the author, not the views of The State News.

I still can vividly remember watching cartoons on Saturday mornings as a child — bowl of cereal in hand, trembling with excitement.

I would glue my eyes to the TV as Batman, Superman, the X-Men and the Power Rangers lit up the screen. For hours, I would watch them defeat every villain in their path. It astonished me how powerful and heroic they were.

“I want to be strong like them,” I often would tell my mother, flexing my biceps to reinforce my statement. Her response was always the same: “Well, drink your milk,” or “Eat your vegetables.”

And so I did.

Every morning, I would drink two full glasses of milk before school. I wanted to be strong. I had to be strong.

One day, though, I went to the refrigerator, and its contents appalled me.

There was no milk, no vegetables, no anything. How was I supposed to be strong now? My quest for ultimate strength had been destroyed. I went to inform my mother of the emptiness, but it seemed as if she already knew.

I could hear her crying. Immediately, I ran into her room, attempting to relieve her pain and tears. But before I could say anything, she wiped her eyes, stood up and left the room. An air of determination followed her.

The next day, I returned to the fridge, only to find it overflowing with food. I was beyond fascinated.

At that moment, my mind ventured into deep thought. I began recalling similar instances like this one.

I recollected moments when my mother, dismal and restless, constantly questioned where our next meal was coming from.

I remembered her crying, praying on her knees, asking for a blessing that would supply us with an abundance of food that would compensate for every hungry night in the past and every one to come.

Conversely, I was reminded of the same woman, who just was overwhelmed with stress, becoming a serene, collected problem-solver.

Within an instant, we would have food on our table. I remembered sitting at the dinner table, perceiving the multitude of different dishes, and I was amazed by the faith my mother had.

I recalled instances when I would find her confused and disoriented, pondering how her income alone would pay the mortgage and utilities. Struggling to provide for three children, it seemed nearly impossible. Money was scarce, help was minimal and it seemed as if her spirit was broken.

Once again, after her last tears were shed, she would transform into a soldier — standing strong in the midst of battle.

We always had a roof over our heads and a place to sleep. There was never a day when we didn’t have clothes on our backs, lights, hot water or heat.

We might not have had everything we wanted, but we had everything we needed. I began to see the beauty in that.

It was then that I began to realize what strength truly was.

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I recollected every trial my mother had overcome. It occurred to me, right then, like an inventor receiving his most brilliant idea, that my mother was strong.

And the truth is we all are.

We all are equipped with our set of tribulations and obstacles in life. We all have faced hardships. We all have endured pain.

But what makes us truly remarkable, as a people, is that we are able to rise above the challenges that seek to harm us. We are masters of perseverance.

In the midst of the hindrances that attempt to burn our faith, we become phoenixes, encompassing the fires of the sun.

When hopelessness tries to keep us from our dreams, it is our strength that pushes us forward. When exams and quizzes become too numerous, it is our strength that helps us pull through. When family issues seem to arise every week, it is our strength that allows us to keep faith.

When we feel like giving up and letting go, it is our strength that tells us to hold on.

You see, strength is not determined by the amount of damage we can cause, or by the superiority of our muscles. Strength is not what we see on TV shows or in movies. Strength is characterized by our ability to effectively utilize our minds in order to endure the problems we face.

The next Saturday morning, I sat in front of the TV, bowl of cereal in hand, with an entirely different perspective.

My mother walked into the room, and I stopped her.

“I don’t want to be strong like them anymore,” I stated.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because I want to be strong like you.”

Rashad Timmons is a guest columnist at The State News and a journalism sophomore. Reach him at timmon18@msu.edu.

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