The Human Spirit


Whether you advocate Darwin or the Bible to explain the existence of man, there is something that both factions hold in common … the human spirit. I never cease to be amazed at how human beings can somehow rise above what might initially seem to be unbeatable odds in order to function or survive. I guess that my own sister who was stricken with polio from a very early age and remained unable to move for much of her life would be my primary example and motivation. She was not without pain from the age of eight until she deceased at the age of sixty-five. Additionally, I have had the good fortune to be with and work among those with severe handicaps that one might think would break their spirit but that has not been the case.

Probably the most evident example of the need to live is the infant just delivered from its mother’s womb as it struggles to take its first breath. An even greater example is the premature infant no bigger than an adult’s hand whose life is in danger upon birth and is hanging onto life in an incubator. Children who may have been born without an arm or a leg determined to play a sport is an example that tends to bring a tear to my eye. That determination can be seen on the child’s face as they struggle to accomplish what his or her teammates may do with ease and take for granted. There is no giving up. There is no saying “I can’t” or “it’s too hard.” The will to survive then becomes the will to live life to the fullest no matter what the obstacle.

Another example that comes to mind was a man in his mid-70’s years ago in Buffalo with whom I had the good fortune to pair up for a golf game  He was severely handicapped with several problems. One of his feet was “clubbed” resulting in his gait being severely impaired and causing him pain with every step. His body not only suffered from age, he had very little range of motion which resulted in his golf swing probably being the worst that I’ve ever seen. Somehow, though, he compensated for these disfigurements as he was able to hit the ball straight down the middle, time after time. It was truly a phenomenon to behold and he would par or strike the ball below par every time he played. He played this particular very long course five days a week and he walked it each time. I became so absorbed in watching and marveling at his compensative abilities that I couldn’t really focus on my own game.

Another example occurs on what is probably a daily basis here in Florida. I don’t know the individual about whom I’m about to describe but I’ve seen him several time while driving the major highway Route 41. I don’t know where he starts his walk nor where he ends it but I’ve slowed down in my car to watch the determination visible on his face as he drags one foot behind the other walking along the side-path of the highway. There is no grimace … just determination. Whether he walks for exercise or whether there is a purpose, I don’t know but I admire him from afar.

We’ve all seen TV clips of young, vibrant war veteran who’ve returned from Iraq or Afghanistan minus an arm or a leg. The one outstanding clip that I viewed was that of a young man who lost both arms and legs as a result of an IUD bomb that tore into his vehicle. As tears welled up in my eyes not only for what he had been through but for what he went through for us, Americans, he was expressing his thanks to be alive and still able to view and be a part of the world around him. He spoke with an eye toward the future in the sense that he had things that he was looking forward to experiencing. In my opinion, his display of character, bravery and strength placed him into a category beyond heroic.

Of course, there are less vivid examples of the human spirit. One that I relish is watching small children overcoming their size and inexperience in order to achieve something that they have their hearts set on doing … sometimes to their parents’ displeasure. Another is the fervor and sense of purpose that athletes … whether professional or amateur … manifest in the pursuit of achieving their goal in their given sport. A gentleman that I have always admired is the professional golfer, Tom Watson, who at the age of 60+ almost won one of the most prestigious tournaments in the PGA. This was a feat that only the young were supposed to accomplish whereas he missed it by just one putt. His positive and good-natured self-deprecating attitude in the end was a testament to his humility and yet his intense competitiveness.

Probably the most emphatic example of the human spirit has been the rescue of the thirty-three miners who were trapped in a mine in Chili. Watching the painstaking removal of each of the miners as they came to the surface was an extremely emotional experience for me and most others. The attitudes and spirit that most of the miners displayed … albeit putting their “best face” forward … was a true indication that the will to survive and live is greater than anything else that we might experience. Both the faith and hope of the families of the trapped miners as well as of the government personnel which took such an active role in the rescue was very worthy of note.

What comprises the human spirit? I cannot adequately describe the origin except to say that the need and will to live, survive and DO is a built-in human factor for all of us. The human spirit transcends handicaps and overwhelming odds and it cannot be underestimated. Probably, this is one reason that many Americans root for the underdog in sporting events. For me, it is a reason for which to marvel in a never-ending fashion. The odds that may be against a person mean very little In the presence of the human spirit, Even our last breath on this earth will be given with the same struggle because the will to live is an insurmountable and basic need for all human beings.

Both as a consultant and author, Charles Bonasera’s story-telling have motivated people to change patterns and resolve problems in their lives. All of his books contain valuable, practical lessons that people can easily apply to bettering and managing their lifestyles. He has also written a myriad of articles which can be found on his website at

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