Challenge #159

I wrote this speech last semester for a public speaking class. I think the challenge is relatively obvious:

Today I want to talk about silent battles. Some are small—when you’ve crawled into bed only to realize you forgot to turn the light off, when your hand won’t fit into the Pringles can, when you’re in the shower and realize that you’ve forgotten a towel.  And some silent battles are big, like depression, loneliness, fear

I want to tell you a story about the struggles of a man that I know well. When this man was young, he had everything going for him. He was extremely intelligent; he was funny; he was attractive and well-liked. He was educated—on his way to a doctorate degree. He married a beautiful woman and had two beautiful children. Put simply, he had a charming life and what looked like a successful future ahead of him. But then he was in a car accident in which he fractured his neck. In the course of treatment, he was put on powerful narcotics—pain medication—and he became addicted.

His life spiraled out of control—drugs became his first priority. For fifteen years, he was in and out of prison for various drug-related crimes (mostly forging doctors’ signatures). He lost his job, his marriage deteriorated, his relationship with his children crumbled. His bright future was suddenly dark.

Now he is 62-years-old and he can’t get a real job regardless of his education, because of his criminal past. But he works as a janitor of sorts, at the reduced-rent dormitory in which he lives. He doesn’t have a driver’s license. He spends his days reading the news, walking to and from the grocery store, and drinking coffee at the Starbucks on the corner, where all the baristas know him by name and give him free coffee.

But he is five years clean. And throughout each day of his simple life, this man fights a silent and heavy battle. A drug addiction is not something you are miraculously ‘cured’ of—overcoming addiction is a decision made, every morning, to continue fighting. He fights the battle with each cup of coffee that he buys, with each walk to the store, with each day that he feels regret for losing his family, each day that he yearns for a future that he never had. Each day that he commits to this effort, he continues to triumph at one of the most difficult fights that exists. From the outside his life may looks simple, sad even; he may not have money, awards, a thrilling career or a thriving social life, but he has accomplished overcoming an addiction—something so difficult, so complex and demanding that he, at the least, deserves respect.

This man is not alone. Our world is full of people fighting silent battles. The small, trivial battles can be tough, like remembering to take the trashcan to the road on Tuesday mornings or those tricky password requirements that want a number, a symbol AND a capital letter. And the big battles—like the addiction, the depression, and the other powerful, voiceless enemies—those can be heartbreaking. These struggles are often invisible and tragic. But each morning, the fighters wake up and decide that they will make it, again, through the day. Awards aren’t given to people like the man in my story. Their successes are not marked by accolades or honors. But their perseverance, their resiliency, their strength in the face of overwhelming obstacles deserve—just like the man in my story—to be recognized.

  As Mary Anne Radmacher once said, ‘Courage doesn’t always roar.’ I think that perhaps silent courage is the most courageous of all. To continue fighting when the world hasn’t a clue, to maintain strength when you have no army behind you and no paradise ahead—that is bravery. And that is the courage with which the man in the story and all others like him fight.

Today I want to give my utmost respect to those fighting internal battles. To the man in the story, to others like him, to any one of you that may be struggling with difficult, silent enemies. I want to say: I admire your strength; I appreciate the endurance that it takes to face your voiceless demons; and I value the silent courage that you exude every single day. And I want to remind each of you to search for compassion when you see the homeless man on the corner of 24th, when you encounter a rude clerk at the coffee shop, and each time you meet someone new. They may be struggling, fighting a silent battle, and, just like you, they are doing the best that they know how to do. 

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About onechallengeaday

I am searching for nothing and absorbing everything. My eyes are open--I am wondering, I am wandering. I was made to run, to think, and to write. And that is what I plan to do.
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4 Responses to Challenge #159

  1. A Well Wisher says:

    Hmm…that was very well written.

    You’re right..we’re all fighting internal battles…I had been in a state of depression for about two months now..a personal heartbreaking situation…

    I had done something which I shouldn’t have done, and then felt guilty about it. I made the confession to the person involved (because the guilt was overwhelming) and she forgave me right then. But since that, she never really talked to me.

    Okay, I think I’ll tell you the full story. And, it’ll probably seem silly to you…

    There’s this woman that I happen to really love. Yea..it’s been quite a few years since I’ve had the ‘feeling of love’ towards this person (no..this was NOT a romantic or a sexual relationship…just…you love a person for what they are…right? A loving ‘friend’). But I never really wanted her to know that I love her…
    Anyway, she recently happened to know my feelings towards her (don’t ask me how she came to know about it). But nothing had really backfired, and she continued to be friendly with me just like it had been.

    One fine day, I happened to go to her room in her office… She always wears a coat when she’s at work. She had been on leave that day, and the coat was draped over her chair. On seeing this, I felt like going and touching this coat..just to know how the coat feels like. The peculiarity of this coat was that she never really washes it (and no, it doesn’t stink).

    Anyway, I took the coat in my hand, and then automatically, I happened to smell it. The smell of her sweat and everything…it suddenly unleashed the devil within me..and I kissed it. I even wore that coat.

    felt bad about it. This was something I shouldn’t have done. And the next day, I went to her, and told her that i kissed her coat, and apologized to her (I didn’t have the courage to say that I wore it).
    She said something like “it’s all right..it’s fine…don’t worry about it…” and such things. Yea, she really didn’t seem to be bothered at all. As a matter of fact, she had been friendliest to me on that day.

    After that she never really talked to me. Like, she tries not to look at me, but if at all she accidentally happens to make eye-contact with me, then she’ll be friendly. It’s as if she’s actually scared of me or something.

    And, I forced myself to go to her..and I casually asked her “So…did you wash your coat..?”
    “Yes, I washed it” she said, and walked away. (Had I told her that I had actually worn it, she would’ve probably burned it..).

    I lost a friend. I lost a good friend… I don’t think I specifically need to mention about the depression that I plunged into. And this depression had been eating into my days, reducing my efficiency and everything..

    I’m a computer programmer, and yea, programming was something I really loved doing all my life (I suppose that explains the weird email address of mine). And heh…I lost my interest in programming after this incident. Whenever somebody approaches me for developing a software and gives me his requirements, the logic and the algorithm of the program just wouldn’t click…

    Now, had I not said to this woman what I had done, she would NEVER have known about it. It was with a certain degree of shock that I had realized that honesty ain’t always the best policy. Sometimes, silence is better….

    It’s been two months now…and I’m slowly coming out of the depression. And, my programming skills and getting revived…and yea, I’m getting back to normal… But there’s that emptiness you know..

  2. Pingback: Winning the Battle Within | Life...Outrageously Real Insights.

  3. commovit says:

    Your speech brings tears to my eyes. Well-written post! *thumb up*

  4. commovit says:

    Reblogged this on commovitwanderingthoughts and commented:
    Like Ellen Degeneres says: “Be kind to one another” as everybody is already fighting a battle, either loudly or silently

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