“Who in your life do you admire most? And why?”
I looked at the question in the writing exercise and racked my brain. As it turns out, there was no easy answer. I couldn’t easily boil it down. Many people passed through my head as the week went on, but only a few stuck. And the three people that kept coming to my mind were three very different people. But all three individuals have encountered extremely hard things in life. And, to me, what makes them admirable is that they have all endured those hardships well and come out better for it. And, interestingly enough, they are all single.
The first of my three people was married once, but has been single for about twenty years. She is so loving and warm and welcoming, and makes any and all feel like a family member. Not long after her own divorce, my parents divorced and she gave much needed relief and assistance to my family. Later in life, when I went through a rough financial patch, she took me into her home. I consider her to be like a second mother to me.
Another person I admire is a life-changing close friend from junior high. After I went through some hardships as a child, instead of doing trivial juvenile things to get my mind off of problems, we would go to soup kitchens with her family. Or we would sit in her room and think about where we could make the biggest difference for good in the world and in our local community. She later had her heart badly broken in a relationship and is currently single. But through it all she has always been like the sister I never had.
Finally, the third person I thought of is a man who had a dramatic transformation. As a boy he was selfish and greedy and took advantage of people in horrible ways. But he has since changed his character and life completely—and has suffered a lot in trying to rectify those early life choices. Because of his constant effort to change, he is a completely new person. And I consider him one of the purest, kindest, most loving people I know. I have seen him give and serve even complete strangers in so many ways with unconditional love. He is also single.
It struck me that among all my admirable family and friends, married and single, the three people I narrowed my answer down to are all currently single—and none of them by choice. In fact, all three long for companionship and are doing what they can to find companionship. But in their singleness they have also found ways to love and serve others like family. After heartbreak or difficulty, instead of withdrawing completely, they have each found ways to be there for others.
I know all three individuals have affected me in profoundly simple ways. They’ve reached out and welcomed me into their homes, lives, and hearts. They’ve cried with me, and I with them. They’ve inspired me to do good and change for the better. They’ve forgiven me when I’ve wronged them and encouraged me when I’ve felt down. Most of all, I admire them because I’ve watched how they live, making a beautiful life out of things they would never have planned for themselves.
These three people are so admirable to me because they endure so well. And I realized that overcoming great hardship is often what makes someone such an inspiration to others. Our lives don’t always follow our best-laid plans. So much is outside of our hands. But what we make of our experiences is within our control, and that can have the greatest impact on others.
Photo credit: Jason Staten-Flickr