Monday, August 30, 2010


I’ll be the first to admit to wanting to be a superhero when I was a kid. Superman was completely the coolest hero out there! The thing I liked the most about Superman was his super strength. In the eyes of elementary-school Abi, nothing was too difficult for Superman to knock out of his way, and no one was stronger than he was. But, as both my taste in superheroes and my perspective changed as I grew up, I began to realize strength is not defined by how much you can push or throw. As my Hidden Hero showed me, true strength is measured by how many people, especially yourself, you can uplift.


“Finally you pick up the phone!” I said. “Wow, honestly, it feels like I have to call a million times just to catch you for five minutes!”

I was talking to my Hidden Hero, a good friend who was not good at answering the phone. We had been able to talk for a few minutes here and there, but it had been a while since we were able to have a real chat.

HH replied, “I know, I’m really sorry. If only you knew how busy things were in my life right now, you would understand.”

I take NO excuses, I thought as I polished my black maroon-lined sunglasses. A few months without real conversations is way too long. “Business or not, we need to talk! I’ve got a lot to tell you, and I’m sure you have a lot to tell me too!”

“All right, well you will be happy to know we can talk for hours if you like ,” HH said.

With that invitation we proceeded to talk about everything that had been happening in life. New movies, clothes, and ice cream flavors were our main topics. Our lightweight chatting continued for a little while, but HH said one phrase that immediately anchored it to the ground: “Oh, and I’ve been looking at some colleges, too.”

I felt emptiness in my stomach as I said, “Colleges? Oh yes, college. An amazing experience achieved only by enduring the monstrous application process.” I said uneasily.

“Tell me about it! I have my heart set on only a few schools, but thinking about if my grades or a few essays are not impressive to admissions offices makes me crazy!” HH replied. “I just really hope the schools I am aiming for see how badly I want to go there.”

“I’m sure they will,” I said, “but I understand what you mean. But don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll both be happy wherever we end up.” I sure HOPE we will be. “Let’s change the subject. What has been new with you?

“Not much is new with me,” HH answered me.

“Really? What about your family, how are they doing?”

“Oh well, my grandparents aren’t doing too well. They are actually in the hospital right now both caught a really serious infection.”

Oh, that’s too bad, I thought, thinking about the numerous sweet treats and affection I received from those grandparents. “I’m sorry, I really hope they feel better. Well, how are your friends? Everything is drama-free, right?”

HH hesitated a bit before saying, “I’ve actually lost a few friends this year.”

Gossip strikes again, I thought. “Don’t worry, HH, if they aren’t trustworthy, they aren’t worth your time.”

“Not like that, I mean that some people I know have passed away. In fact, last month I attended a memorial service for one of my friends,” HH said quietly.

Oh my goodness. HH’s friends have died. Overcome with sadness for them, all I could say was, “I truly am sorry to hear about that. I can’t even imagine how you must feel. How are you dealing with this?”

HH replied, “It has been pretty difficult, but I’m learning to live with it. Their experiences have taught me to love and value my life, and I plan to live it to the fullest.”

Well said, I thought. “I’m sure that’s what they would have wanted. But are you sure you are ok? I mean, just a few minutes ago we were freaking out about college, but you seem to be handling this so well,” I said.

“I know I probably should be depressed or angry, but I know I have to push through these hard times and keep living my life,” HH responded.

Of all our conversations, this one taught me the most about my friend. I saw HH’s sensibility, courage, and strength. To be able to handle those hardships and deal with the growing pains of being a teenager demonstrated a real strength of will of which even Superman would be jealous.

Lesson Learned: Strength is internal. You may be able to move buildings like Superman can, but if you lack a strong character, you are truly weak. It may be difficult to face life’s problems with courage and strength, but in doing so, you will be securing yourself in who you are and what you are really made of. All issues, average or Superman-sized, can be handled with a bit of courage and internal strength. J

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” Mahatma Gandhi


  1. Abi: I hope next time you will be able to write about Birtukan Midekssa, the no. 1 political prisoner in Ethiopia and Africa. She is truly a woman of indomitable will:

    Birtukan Midekssa condemned to life in prison by a vengeful dictator, but unconquered.
    Birtukan thrown into the dungeon of wrath and tears, but defiant.
    Birtukan beaten, bludgeoned and bloodied, but unbowed.
    Birtukan mocked, ridiculed and disrespected, but gracious.
    Birtukan denounced, vilified, strong-armed and manhandled, but unafraid.
    Ethiopia under the crushing boots of soldiers of fortune.
    Birtukan, Invictus!
    Ethiopia, Invictus!

  2. Abi, you never fail to uplift us with your internal strength.