Resilience Archive

I Bend But I Don’t Break… Much

Posted January 16, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Last night I arrived at my fuel stop in Van, Texas eight minutes before I would turn into a pumpkin. I only had that many minutes I could legally drive for the day so I found a parking spot and decided to explore. Loves was wedged between a local Barbecue buffet and a family style restaurant. I checked them both out but finally opted for veggies.

While walking through the truck stop, I almost ran right into Ralph. Standing upright, he would have been almost seven feet tall but he was permanently bent at the waist. As a result, he stood less than four. He was busy grabbing a soda, snacks and whatever else he felt he needed to keep him going. 

I expected Ralph to exit to the auto parking lot after making his purchases but he did just the opposite. He lumbered out the back door to the fuel isle for trucks. 

Ahhh, a ride-along, I thought to myself… until he began to climb into his rig. I had to stop him. And with my typical fascination, I bombarded him with questions like, what happened to you? Is it difficult to drive? Are  you in pain? Do you have any limitations?

Ralph broke his back in a car accident almost twenty years ago. He was hit by a drunk driver at speeds over 100 miles per hour. His wife was killed and he was pronounced crippled for the remainder of his natural life. Ralph was not pleased with that prognosis and decided to reject it. 

He worked very hard to overcome. Enduring excruciating rehab, he was finally able to walk again. Unfortunately, the fusion in his back failed, leaving him permanently bent at the waist.  He has a really good sense of humor about it though. He says he has a birds eye view of the floor. He doesn’t miss many pennies that people drop.

Ralph also loves to be a trucker. His odd shape is perfect for driving. He is in the exact position his body needs to be in to sit at the wheel all day long. While most drivers get stiff and need to stretch, it doesn’t bother Ralph in the least. Others give him a wide berth because they are afraid they’re going to hurt him. 

“How much pain are you in?” I just had to know.

“No more than you are. I’m sure at your age you have aches and pains. Well, so do I. Hey, it’s nothing more than I would have had anyway. It’s just different. That’s all.”

Ralph is a shining example of overcoming adversity, sorrow and enormous loss. He lost his health, his mobility, the love of his life. As if to mock him, the cure made him worse. Yet today Ralph had a smile on his face, eagerly embraced the day and didn’t give it a second thought when he had to ask for my help to get his soda off the top shelf. 

On the driver’s side of Ralph’s truck, he’d placed the inscription: “I bend but I don’t break… much.” The truth is he’s been broken more than most of us will ever endure and yet he continues on his journey as if nothing bad ever happened to him. He embraces life and takes tragedy in stride. He is alive an well living life at 90 degrees. He cherishes each breath he takes and doesn’t take anything for granted. 

My life is greater because I bumped into Ralph last night. Hopefully, yours is as well. 


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Not Looking For a Handout

Posted January 21, 2014 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

On Friday, I was running and noticed a gentleman crossing the road. It see,ed a bit odd for two reasons. First, he was weaving in and out of cars rather than crossing at an intersection which was only twenty yards away. And, he was walking straight toward me.

He made his way to the sidewalk on my side of the street and, just as I expected, he approached and stopped me. I paused the podcast I’d been listening to, wrestled the ear plugs out of my ears, and gave him my attention.

He was looking for a homeless shelter. He was new to town, looking for work and had spent several nights out in the cold.

“I was promised some work but not only can I not find the man, I can’t even find thirty-five cents!”

I thought he was going ask me for money but he did not. “I just need to find a warm place to stay at night and I need work. I can do almost anything and am willing to. I just gave my heart to the Lord and I have to trust Him to provide, like the Bible says.”

As he continued, I realized this man was serious and definitely NOT looking for a handout.

I brainstormed with him for a few moments and suggested he walk around the corner to the local Christian bookstore. I figured they would either know specific people at the men’s shelter they could connect him with, or they’d know who to contact.

A wide smile creased his face and he set off in the direction I’d pointed with a new pep in his step.

I’d given him hope.

I watched from a distance as he boldly stepped inside the store to ask for help in locating a shelter, inspired by his resolve to get back on his feet again and make a go of life.

And, as he disappeared behind the glass storefront, I had no doubt whatsoever that he would indeed overcome his current circumstance.

I continued my run to the grocery store, the once intriguing podcast no longer holding my interest. As I walked the isles of the store, I was tempted to buy food for this man. I wondered what he would enjoy eating that didn’t have to be cooked.

I reached for a couple of things but then put them back. This stranger who walked up to me on the street was not looking for a handout. Though down on his luck, he was also self-sufficient, intelligent and resourceful. He would make it through.

As I ran home with grocery bags in hand, I marveled at the inner strength of this total stranger. I also lamented that I’m not more like him. I prayed that I would become more like him.

I also prayed that YOU would be more like him. A chance encounter on a cold sunny morning with a total stranger who shouted by his actions, “I’m not looking for a handout” compels me to a new commit. What about you?

Have you had a chance encounter that changed your life? Gave you hope? Or perhaps a swift kick in the pants? Share it here!

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Your Incredible Resilience

Posted January 8, 2014 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

As I sit bundled up typing this blog post, most of our country (USA for my foreign friends) is in a deep freeze. Facebook is flashing with reports of 15 foot snow drifts, high temperatures in the negative teens and new recipes cooked up to cope with the cold. 

Mountain woman

Yesterday, I took a long walk in freezing temperatures during the warmest part of the day. The bright shining sun was no match for the fierce northeastern wind as it sliced through my skin. Yet, it was an amazing encounter with old man winter. This is my first winter as an adult I’ve spent somewhere other than subtropical climates. A great adventure.

Most everyone I know is taking the storm in stride. I’m intrigued by the creative ways people are coping with the storm. It proves to me one thing I’ve known for a very long time. Human beings are the most resilient of God’s creation.

Ice Climber

The Creator Himself stirred in a large amount of the stuff when He made you. Your incredible resilience is right there, hardwired into your DNA. All you have to do is call upon it when the need arises. And, it will see you through even the most treacherous storms in life.


Haven’t been suddenly faced with a situation you weren’t expecting and had no earthly idea how you were going to get out of it? Sure you have. Remember when, out of nowhere, the solution just popped in your mind? That’s your incredible resilience at work.

My friend, right now–yes at this very instant– you have the ability to get out of any situation, overcome any obstacle and climb any mountain that stands in the way of you living your dream. There will always be challenges. Anytime you set off in a positive direction, you will face adversity but here’s the great thing: YOU ARE INCREDIBLY RESILIENT!

Girl Making Snow Angel

You are strong and powerful. When life’s winter storms hurl winds in your face and the road to your success is covered over by freezing snow drifts, you’ll find a way. Don’t give up. Keep moving forward. Unleash your incredible resilience and let it propel you beyond your problems to where you want to be.

When was the last time you used your incredible resilience? Was was the result? Share it here!


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