Unsuspected Strength

Devan - Lebanon, Maine
Entered on April 27, 2009
Age Group: Under 18

Never underestimate the power of a seventy -year old woman. A while ago I came across a whole clan of these old ladies, and my life has changed ever since.

It all started six years ago when my family joined this church right down the street. We’d never been big churchgoers, but we were new in town and it seemed like a good way to meet new people. Except for the occasional family that stopped by for Christmas and Easter, the church was made up of seven old ladies and a few old men. Not exactly the kind of friends I wanted to make. Soon, they invited my mom to be part of their “sewing” club. The club has been around forever, and they used to sew, but now they play scrabble, but they still call it “sewing” club. I’ll never forget the day my mom dragged me along to play scrabble. I was thirteen by then, and I hated scrabble. I wanted to spend my summers’ day on the beach, riding my bike down to my friend’s house, or lazily lying in the grass, soaking up the sun; not playing some dumb word game. But my mom told me I needed to use my brain at least once that summer, so she made me go. The house smelt like a mix of cat hair and old lady perfume. It made my eyes water. I sat down between two old ladies and told myself to take it easy on them. You should never beat an old lady at her favorite game. The one to my left went first. Her shaky hand reached into the tile bag and took out seven tiles. She twisted her tiles around to make different words, and suddenly a sly grin spread across her face. She laid down S-W-E-A-T-E-R. I don’t remember how many points she got for that one word, but it was more than I got in the whole game. By the end of the game, I was totally stunned by how well they played scrabble. The lady on my right looked at my shocked expression and said, “Don’t worry, dah’lin, it’s only your first time.” Every now and then I’ll go to sewing so I can witness their stunning scrabble skills. I haven’t won yet, but I’m getting better. I was astounded by the mental strength of these old ladies.

Earlier in my life, I’d learned of a different form of strength. When I was in third grade, I met a boy named Jamie. He’d sit with me on the bus everyday and ask me all these questions. He’d sit next to me in class and talk and talk. He’d say the most random things, like, “Hey! We both have five letters in our first name!” He was a nice kid, but I still thought boys had cooties so I’d just sit there and basically ignore him. I wasn’t really mean to him, I just kind of pretended he wasn’t there, which I regret today. Sometimes Jamie would be out of school for weeks. But for some reason I never asked the teacher where he was or when he was coming back. Whenever Jamie was in school, he was always so happy and full of life. What I didn’t know was that for Jamie every day was a battle, and on most days it was a battle he won. Once, Jamie was out of school for a really long time. My teacher told us that Jamie was very sick and he was hospital. I was only eight, so I thought everyone got better if they were sick, so I didn’t really think twice about Jamie. I remember my teacher recorded me reading a book called Lupin Lady so she could give it to him while he was in the hospital. Before I read the book, I leaned in to the tape-recorder and said something like, “Feel better soon, Jamie! We miss you.” I really hope he heard that. I didn’t know that Jamie had a kind of sickness where you couldn’t feel better. A few weeks after reading Lupin Lady, my teacher sent us all home with notes in our folders to give to our parents. I gave mine to my mom, who looked it over and got this stunned look on her face. She pulled me into a hug, which I slithered out of and looked at her questioningly. She told me Jamie died. I wrapped my arms back around my mom and started crying and I didn’t stop for a very long time. I was so confused. Kids aren’t supposed to die! They’re supposed to grow up to be astronauts or rock stars or whatever they want. It’s been six years, but I still can’t get over it. I never knew Jamie was sick, and definitely not deathly ill. I thought he was just a regular kid, but he was really more of a super hero. It took strength to keep living, and it took even more strength for him to live it happily.

The other day I read about a boy named Matthew Stepanek. Mattie has a disease called mitochondrial myopathy. It causes its victim to gradually loose muscle strength and causes the inability to walk. Mattie uses a motorized wheelchair, a ventilator and supplemental oxygen. You might think that he has no strength, but that isn’t true. He spoke with Jimmy Carter about peace. He wrote two poetry books called and Heartsongs. People like Oprah look up to him. He has wisdom beyond his years, and there is definitely strength in wisdom. What he lacks in physical strength, he more than makes up for in mental and emotional strength. Everyday of his life is a physical battle, and it takes great strength for him to do the things that come naturally to us. You could definitely say that Mattie has more strength than what meets the eye.

I underestimated Jamie’s strength. I underestimated the old ladies strength. I’m sure Mattie’s strength has been underestimated in his life. I think most people in the world view strength as physical, and if a person doesn’t have physical strength, they’re automatically considered weak. I’ve learned this isn’t true. There are so many ways to be strong, other than physically. So never underestimate the power of a seventy-year-old lady, or the boy with cooties, or the young peacemaker in the wheel chair. Strength can come from the most unsuspected people; this I believe.