I am reading Standing Tall, the autobiography of famed women's college basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer. The book relays Stringer's growing up, family, challenges and successes interwoven with the history and and evolution of women's basketball. I am not big on biographies, or on women's basketball, so I am not sure why my husband chose this book as a birthday present and went to the trouble of getting it autographed by Stringer (currently coach of the team at Rutgers University, here in New Jersey). I am glad he did though; it has been a good read.
Coach Stringer's successes have been hard-earned. She has faced racism, sexism and a more than her fair share of family tragedy, but persevered to play an integral role in the growth of women's sports and to achieve great success for her teams and for herself. The enormity of the personal tragedies this woman has experienced is awesome to me. Her father died in his 40s. Her daughter, when just a toddler, suffered paralysis and irreversible brain damage as a result of misdiagnosed spinal meningitis and undetected pressure in her brain. Her husband of 20 years died of a massive heart attack when he was only 47 years old. Her son's promising football career was derailed by a false association with a shooting. Just last year, her life became a whirlwind of media craziness after she and her team were called 'nappy headed 'hos' by radio host Don Imus.
I admire that Stringer does not claim to have taken every adversity in stride; rather she is brutally honest about her crippling grief, despondence and anger. I can understand the anger. How much is one person expected to bear in a life time? I have had reason to ask that question over the last couple of years; my best friend lost her mother, boyfriend and sister in less than three years. After her most recent loss and in the middle of a fit of crying, she said "it's too much." I agreed.
As Stringer says in her book, some people prefer to find solace in the idea that there is a reason for everything - that God in His infinite wisdom makes or allows things to happen to some ultimate good end. That idea made no sense to Stringer and it brought her no solace. The idea that made the most sense to her is that some people suffer so they learn lessons they can pass to others to bring comfort to them. Of course, in her time of grief she did not want to be a comforter to others. She did not want to learn those lessons. In her life though, she has had many opportunities to draw on those lessons and impact the girls she coached and mentored.
If you accept that idea though, you have to ask: if you have not met great adversity in your life does it mean that there is no great purpose to your life?