Profiles of Spirituality

Newspapers, magazines, and books are often filled with stories of remarkable human achievements, nothing less than grace under pressure. If they are well written, they portray the triumph of the human spirit, even if the protagonist's physical health is severely compromised. Take, for example, Marc Wellman, a man who became a paraplegic due to a climbing accident in 1982. Casting aside this limitation, he made it his goal to climb El Capitan Mountain in Yosemite National Park. In 1989 he did just that before a televised audience. Undaunted by the challenge, in 1991 Wellman climbed another of Yosemite's peaks, Half Dome.

A similar, but no less remarkable, story of grace under pressure is that of the former model Gari Carter. While driving on a country road one snowy afternoon in Virginia, Gari was hit head-on by a car whose driver lost control. Upon impact, her car spun in circles, then smashed into a side rail. Gari crashed through the windshield, and metal and glass destroyed her face. Medics were astonished to see that she was still alive. Completely immobilized and grossly marred, she was told that the damage to her facial structure was nearly irreparable. Gari was determined to come back strong, and that she did. I met Gari at a conference in Florida, where she explained that with incredible willpower and fortitude, she incorporated prayer, meditation, and a host of healing practices into her life, which have allowed her to return to normal.

One day while waiting to have my car serviced, I scanned a copy of People magazine and came across a story of a little girl who had survived a terrible fire. Her entire body had been engulfed in flames, with every inch brutally burned. She was horribly disfigured, so much so that she didn't even look human but resembled an insect or an alien. Yet if you glanced into her eyes, all doubt was removed. Within her eyes was a light, a sparkle of energy, an undeniable sense of the divine spirit within.

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