It is worth noting the recent and sad passing of 97-year-old Louis Zamperini, a man whose life story was defined by his spirit of resilience.
Everyone encounters challenges and traumas in their lives but Zamperini’s were of a sort that would have crushed most people. No matter what came his way — imprisonment during World War II, torture, substance abuse, he never gave up.
To me, his life is a unique resource. When the Japanese capture him, and he is held captive and tortured, he digs deep within himself and finds a way to go on, even though he is stripped of his human dignity. And later in his life, he finds that love is more powerful than hate.
Like thousands of others around the globe, I became familiar with Zamperini’s powerful story when I read Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling book, “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption.” (http://crylaughheal.com/resilience/) A Hollywood movie, based on the book, directed by Angelina Jolie, is scheduled to be released on December 25, 2014.
An Olympic runner and World War II veteran, Zamperini survived a plane crash in the Pacific Ocean, a horrific seven-week journey across the Pacific in a raft, near starvation and unspeakable torture from the Japanese. And I do mean unspeakable. There were many times when reading the book that I expected the next sentence to tell me that Zamperini died. But he didn’t.
Zamperini’s resolve to live, to survive would not be broken.
After the war, Zamperini was tormented by nightmares and in effort to get rid of them, he began drinking heavily and unfortunately became an alcoholic. Not until he met Rev. Billy Graham did he find a way to get sober and deal with his demons.
More importantly, Zamperini talks in “Unbroken” about how he came to a place of forgiveness towards the Japanese who held him captive and in particular, an Imperial Japanese Army Sargent nicknamed “The Bird” who took a special interest in beating, kicking and mentally abusing Zamperini.
I believe that some people are put here to show us how to handle life. Zamperini was definitely here for that purpose. He was an amazing heroic man and I learned a lot from his story.
Sometimes, we are more powerful than we think. You are enough and please don’t forget that as you deal with a personal loss or challenge that life has put on your path.
When in doubt, think of Louis Zamperini, take a page from his life and always believe you can do it!