Everyone knows that life can hurt. It can whip you, shake you, and rake its nails down your face until it’s just a bloody pulp. No one ever said life was easy. But, then again, what would it be like if life was easy? A lot of people would be eager for that, but I, on the other hand, would not. Life may throw obstacles at our feet, and we may trip over these obstacles and fall flat on our face. But if we fall, are we just going to lay there forever? No. Life is challenging us to get up.
Let’s say that we’re all oak trees. No, scratch that—we all should be oak trees. Even though we should, a lot of us aren’t. Some of us are like pine trees, whose roots are thin, flimsy, and don’t dig very far into the ground. When a storm hits, the pine trees are terrified.
What will happen to us? they think. Will we survive this one?
Oak trees, on the other hand, are the complete opposite. Their strong, sturdy roots plow deep into the Earth, growing a smidge bigger each day. When a tempest arrives, the oak trees don’t cower like the pine trees do. They defy the storm. Bring it on, they say. We can take anything you throw at us.
The oak tree can be stripped from all of its leaves. Its rough, coarse bark can be shredded from its trunk, leaving it smooth and vulnerable. Its branches can be snapped off of its body, breaking off like twigs until the tree is just a bare slab of wood protruding straight up out of the ground.
But it’s still standing.
It may be hurt, yes, but it didn’t give up.
What else can you suffer? the swirling wind howls, clawing at the raw skin of the tree’s bare trunk. What more will it take to knock you down?
Well, says the oak tree, you have not yet destroyed the deepest part of me: my roots. And face it—you never will. And, within time, the tree will begin to heal. It will grow leaves and branches again, and its bark will return as if it had never left.
When life hits us like an angry hurricane, we have to stay standing. We must be like the oak trees, not like the pines.
A girl named Tori had—at one point in her life—everything going for her. She had recently graduated from college with a degree in art, and was getting engaged to her boyfriend, the man of her dreams. Everything seemed to be going down the right path.
Without any delay, Tori and her boyfriend, Craig, were married in the Salt Lake Temple. They settled in Utah and bought a house there, dreaming up fantasies of having children and growing old together. There she was—twenty-five years old, beautiful, and happy. It didn’t seem like anything could ever dampen her contentedness.
But, even though Tori had done nothing wrong and considered herself one of the happiest people alive, it still happened.
It was three months after she and Craig were married. Craig was away at work, and Tori was lounging in the house, relaxing.
She didn’t know how it happened. One second she was fine, watching T.V., petting the cat. But the next second, she was writhing on the floor, experiencing uncontrollable convulsions. Her brain felt like it was heating up, as if it were being baked in an oven. The last thing she remembered was the pressured feeling of her head being compressed. Then black blotches obscured her vision, and she began to drift off into unconsciousness.
Tori was in the hospital when she opened her eyes for the first time. She was lying in a bed with about 900 machines hooked up to her, all beeping simultaneously. The doctor and her family didn’t notice that Tori had just been awakened from the coma she had just been in.
Hey, you guys! she wanted to scream. Over here—I’m awake!
But, with a jolt, she realized that she wasn’t able to. Tori couldn’t move her body at all. Nothing seemed to be working correctly; her brain didn’t know how to tell her vocal chords to yell out to her family.
Tori felt confused and frightened. She knew she had to call out, but she didn’t know how to do it. Frustration aroused inside of her as she desperately tried to work her numb body.
Slowly but surely, she began to remember things. She remembered that she had a stroke, and that she might be very injured. After several hours, she was able to yell out to her family and tell them that she was awake.
After that incident, Tori was like an infant. She had to re-learn everything she had already learned before, and she had to grow up all over again—except she was in an adult body. She remembered thinking more than once, Why did this happen to ME?
Today, Tori is still just as happy as she once was—even though the entire left side of her body doesn’t work at all. The entire experience of having a severe stroke has helped her become stronger. The doctors had told her that she would never be able to get out of bed, to run or walk. But Tori didn’t just lie around and mope about her condition. She amazed everyone by getting back on her feet and proving the doctors wrong.
Now, I’m not saying that every one of us will have to go through something as hard as Tori did. But, even if we do, we can’t just sit around and say, “Oh well, I guess this is how I’m going to be for the rest of my life. Nothing can be done about it.”
The doctors told Tori that she wouldn’t be able to run ever again, because she couldn’t move her left leg or arm. But now, Tori runs almost every day. She is able to tie her shoes with one hand, and she can do almost everything that she did before she had the stroke.
Tori was an oak tree. Even though having a stroke created numerous problems in her life, she didn’t let it keep her down. Instead, she got back up and made the most of it. When life gives us lemons, make lemonade, right?
Life may not be easy, but what would be the point of it if it was? Maybe life is just trying to teach us something. Maybe life wants us to become stronger. Life is testing us with these obstacles, seeing if we will ever fall down and never get back up. Maybe it’s just to make us stronger, or to prepare us for the future.
A lot of us have problems in our lives. A divorce, a death, or maybe even just a pesky sibling. But if these problems knock us down, we have to be able to get back on our feet and keep moving on.