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Birth of a champion: Avoiding victimhood through spiritual strength

By George F. Smith
web posted December 17, 2001

Neal Boortz is fond of citing cases in which people have blown away assailants and avoided becoming victims. I like those stories because we each have a right to armed self-defense. I also like tales about how individuals triumph over victimhood with only their spiritual strength. Such people have hearts of champions. Here's the story of one of them:

To those who didn't know her well, Teresa was a typical teen in the Atlanta suburbs insulated from life's unpleasantness. As soon as she got her driver's license her father gave her a new Jeep Explorer for jaunts between friends' houses, school, and a job waitressing at TGI Friday's. For years, annual vacations had included trips to New York City and Florida. She almost always dressed like a fashion model.

After graduating with honors from high school, she had enjoyed her summer and now, in late August, was excited about beginning college in a few days and living on her own. As she headed home north of the city on I-85 one evening, her Jeep occasionally streaked through puddles left from a recent rain. She was returning from a friend's house, so she was familiar with traffic patterns and road conditions. But it had been an exceptionally dry summer, and the rain presented an element she hadn't seen in awhile.

She swung into the left lane and hit another puddle, sending her Jeep hydroplaning into the concrete median. Unhurt but shaken, she stopped her vehicle in the breakdown lane and got out cautiously to inspect the damage. She cell-phoned her dad to let him know about the accident and not to worry. Meanwhile, another car pulled up behind her, and a man stepped out to see if she was all right. As they talked at the rear of the Jeep, a Ford Expedition hydroplaned into them.

The good Samaritan who had stopped was knocked unconscious against his car.

But the big Ford crushed Teresa against her Jeep and severed her left leg just above the knee. The driver sped off without stopping.

As her parents headed for the accident they got a call from police telling them their daughter had been taken to Grady Hospital in downtown Atlanta, without explaining why. Puzzled and now terrified, they headed straight for Grady.

They spent endless minutes in the emergency room with no word on her condition. Finally, a doctor came out and took them into a private consultation room.

"I have some bad news," he began. They tried to brace themselves for the worst. But he told them their daughter was alive, and though she had lost a lot of blood, was expected to live.

The following month was hell. The physical pain could only be relieved with the strongest drugs. Her plans and self-image shattered, she knew she had to accept her condition and make the most of it. But how exactly does an attractive girl of 18 accept the loss of her leg?

Her parents refused to let her quit on herself. Though they had been generous with her, they had also insisted on certain conduct. Giving in to despair was not behavior they found acceptable.

When she was able to get around on crutches, her father threw a celebration at his restaurant. Most of her friends came, including three co-workers from Friday's. Other than her crutches and an occasional pause for pain medication, there was no sign of anything unusual about her, especially her attitude. She out-dressed everyone there, as usual, and was upbeat and joking.

At the end of the meal one of her co-workers stood up and told the gathering about Friday's emergency fund. The restaurant encouraged its people to contribute a portion of their pay to a pool to be paid out to employees in case lightning strikes. They had voted, he said, and decided that Teresa qualified for the payout. He handed her a check for $2,400.

After everyone applauded, most with a lump in their throat, Teresa thanked the Friday's folks for their generosity. She said the donation would be helpful in the prosthesis stage of her recovery. She spoke evenly about her ordeal at the hospital and her continuing battle with pain. She thanked her friends and family for their love and support. Not once did she cry, choke up, or otherwise convey the view that she was a victim to be pitied. She was a person who'd had a horrible experience and was determined to go on with her life.

Your strength strengthens us, Teresa. I salute you.

George Smith is full-time freelance writer with a special interest in liberty issues and screenwriting. His articles have appeared on Ether Zone, and in the Gwinnett Daily Post, Writer's Yearbook, Creative Loafing, and Goal Magazine. He has a web site for screenwriters and other writers at

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