Simple but challenging life’s lessons -- that seems to be the theme of most true-life stories. Recently, I just finished my fifth true-life story. In the order I read them, they were “A Long Way Home,” “The Man Who Knew Infinity,” “The Boy Who Runs,” “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” and finally “Carry On,” (by Lisa Fenn). I had previously written about Infinity, so I won’t comment on it here.
Crème de la Crème: Of all the above, my wife and I agree that by far “A Long Way Home” was the most amazing, awe-inspiring, and heartwarming story. (Read the book first. The corresponding movie (Lion) edits out a lot of scenes due to time constraints.) What makes this head and shoulders above the rest is that the main character is an illiterate 5-year-old boy from India who ends up nearly 1,000 miles away from home. He survives merely by his wit and “street smarts.” Some 25 to 30 years later, that boy is the autobiographer of his own story. Most outstanding in this story is his vivid memory of what happened to him -- to the point that after continued determination over several years, he discovered where he originated, flew there, and met his mother and siblings. He absolutely refused to accept defeat to find his home, even though it was decades later.
“The Boy Who Runs” is a first-person narrative, but the actual writer is someone else. It is about a boy (Julius Achon) in Uganda who is abducted by an insurgent army at the tender age of 11 or 12 (can’t remember) and used to attack villagers and steal their food. He was able to break free and return home but felt humiliated because of the things he was forced to do. Through a series of self-determined actions, in spite of being mocked by villagers and even his mother, he runs to a town 40 miles away to enter a race. Over time, he is recognized internationally. What was most striking about this story was that Julius never allowed arrogance to cloud over his victories. He always remembered his family and his roots. Bad circumstances did not define him, his positive attitude defined him. I highly recommend this book.
“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” is about William Kamkwamba in Malawi. Like Julius, William grew up in stark poverty. No running water, no electricity. He likewise is ridiculed by his villagers as he scavenges through junk yards looking for anything he can use to make a windmill for his family. He wanted to provide electricity for lights and to pump water. His parents could not afford for him to go to school, so everything he learned was from books at his local library. But it wasn’t as easy as merely reading a book. The books he checked out were highly technical and written in English -- not his native language. Once again, his determination carried him through to the point of being able to decipher electrical diagrams. “Obstacle” was not a word in his vocabulary.
Just today I finished reading “Carry On.” It is a story of two teen boys, one blind and the other a double-amputee in Cleveland, OH. It is also a story of an ESPN sports writer tasked with bringing “the human side of the story” to sports (video). The boys were competitive wrestlers at their local high school. The life lessons this story carried were many. It has been said that “you can take the boy out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the boy.” This story demonstrates that while there were many setbacks, it was unbreakable love (motherly instinct) of Lisa Fenn (the sports writer) that helped both boys to gain self-dignity. (Dartanyon Judo Wrestler today)
Wrapping It Up: Taken altogether, the lessons I gained from all the books are listed below. The scriptures following each point demonstrate that the principles are universal through time, place, and circumstance:
- Unexpected events in life may send us reeling for a time. Regaining our balance and focusing on an unselfish, noble goal will help us regain a much stronger footing. (Luke 22:32)
- Complaining about our lot in life accomplishes nothing beneficial and may even be self-destructive. (Proverbs 24:10)
- Opening our hearts to others, helps us to grow and round out our own character. (2 Corinthians 6:13; Luke 6:31, 38)