Becky was a fellow student I sat next to in 5th grade some 50 years ago. Something reminded me of her this morning and, one thing leading to another, a whole host of memories came flooding back. I vividly recall her smile and pleasant demeanor despite the fact that she must have been experiencing extreme physical and psychological pain. You see, she already knew her life would never be like her classmates’, because she had paralytic polio.

I remember her getting up in her awkward squeaky braces and shuffling along, struggling for every step. Even then, I was amazed at how she could cope. Here I was with all my limbs intact and in good health with my whole life ahead of me. My family was solidly middle class and I didn’t lack for anything I needed—and yet, I sometimes was less than grateful. Looking back, I can say I was rather spoiled.

Despite Becky’s struggles, she still remained positive and kept her faith in Christ. Her joyful spirit was a gift to me that spoke volumes.

In the first half of the 20th century, polio was still a very real problem and could strike anyone. The American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was paralyzed from the waist down from polio. At its peak in the 1940s and 1950s, polio paralyzed or killed over half a million people worldwide every year.* In the last few decades, polio was almost eradicated, but unfortunately it has more recently been detected again in some places where it had all but disappeared.

Although there’s more work to be done to completely turn the corner on this horrible disease, it’s encouraging to see how far we’ve come. It gives me faith that we can get through more current difficulties, like the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, energy shortages, and other challenges that might come up. And even if we have to endure tragedy, we can remember and draw inspiration from the brave souls like Becky who endured and kept their faith through it all.