Jessica Vanhook shows off her new skills in a wheelchair after her family arrived for a visit at Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago, Nov. 2, 2019. Vanhook is currently going through physical therapy and learning to adapt to a new lifestyle. Josh Smith, DN
Jimbo-laya: The power of hope
People can handle so much more than they think they’re capable of.
Joshua Smith is a freshman graphic design major and writes “Jimbo-laya” for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper.
“The power of hope” is a phrase you would imagine coming out of an inspirational movie during some overused, heartfelt situation where someone is told they can’t do something, but through hard work and determination, they actually do that thing and prove all the haters wrong.
Even though it’s overused, it doesn’t make it any less true. The capacity we have for pain, both physical and mental, is astonishing. The fact that we can hit rock bottom and come back better, faster and stronger is incredible.
On Sept. 26, my oldest sister Krystyn called and told me she and our parents were at the hospital.
My other sister Jessica had been shot during a home invasion.
She was shot through the shoulder, the bullet nicking her lung and hitting the base of her spine. She was paralyzed from the waist down.
I went home to LaPorte, Indiana, that weekend, and while I was there, my parents told me she had a slim chance of walking again. Not only that, but covering the costs of the mountain of bills wasn’t going to be easy. We had to start a GoFundMe for my sister because otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to pay for what she would need to walk again.
As grim as this was, I was trying to focus on the thin line of hope that was still there: She would walk again, and she would be OK. After all, doctors will normally give you the worst-case scenario so they don’t get your hopes up.
This meant there was still a chance.
As I thought about Jessica’s situation, I accepted the world was a bad place and people do bad things. She always tries her hardest to put some kind of good into the world, yet this happened to her.
I could have just stopped caring about everything around me and grown bitter toward the world, but I didn’t. Throughout my life, I’ve become more of a realist, but because of how I grew up, it’s second nature for me to still focus on the best possibilities.
That was a personal experience that will always stick with me and remind me to question the impossible, just like Rocky Balboa did.
Rocky is just a guy from from Philly who wanted to be a boxer. He knew where he wanted to be and poured his heart and soul into everything he did to get there. He never gave up, no matter how many times something tried to stop him, and my sister has done the same.
In the movie, Rocky is a hot shot boxer, and everyone knows his name. Jessica is just a girl from LaPorte; she moved away, got shot and now she’s doing everything she can to get back to where she was.
She and Rocky are similar in one crucial way: They don’t give up.
Jessica is a perfect example that we mainly see our strength when something extreme happens, like a natural disaster, an act of terrorism or a random event, like what happened with Jessica. The further we fall, the more obvious it is when we rise back up and fight. A star shines brightest in the darkness, just like my sister.
Jessica’s lungs are completely healed at this point, and she sent a five-second video in a family group chat of her flexing her thigh muscles. As weirdly specific as that sounds, it’s a huge accomplishment for her to consciously and purposely move any muscles below her waist.
It was incredible to see because my sister had fallen so far and was given such a slim chance to walk again, and already she is moving a part of her leg.
Jessica knows she has a long way to go, and I can tell she wants to. Any time someone pushes hard like her, it reminds me of my favorite quote from Balboa:
“Let me tell you something you already know: The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving.”
Regardless of what is thrown at you through life, as long as you can keep moving, you’ll make it eventually. It shouldn’t take a devastating event like this to bring out our strengths, but sometimes that’s just what we need, and that is OK.
Contact Joshua with comments at email@example.com.