Israel: Words to Live By: Strong is the New Beautiful

The woman in this photo is called Moran Samuel. She was doing laundry in her apartment one morning five years ago when she felt an excruciating pain in her spine. She managed to make it to her bed, and telephone for an ambulance.

Two hours later in the hospital, Moran was explaining to her mother that although she couldn’t feel people touching her legs, she knew she could move them. Her mother lifted up the blanket and gently told Moran that no, her legs weren’t moving at all.

Moran was 24 years old, a keen basketball player and student, working towards becoming a therapist for disabled children. And without warning, a stroke in her spinal cord meant she was paralysed from the chest down.

I wanted to quickly share this picture with you because I think Moran is one of the most inspiring women I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting. She told us her story this morning at the Daniel Rowing Centre in Tel Aviv, which I visited as part of a tour being hosted by the Israeli charity Kinetis.

Heading into rehab for three months’ treatment, Moran saw plenty of people who gave in to the temptation to stay in bed. She wasn’t one of them.  From the moment she arrived in rehab, she refused all help. She learned painstakingly to dress herself, shower herself, use a wheelchair and then crutches to get around.

Just three days after finishing her stint in rehab, Moran returned to her studies and went on to qualify as a physical therapist working with children with disabilities. She also returned to playing basketball – with the men’s Paralympic team, since there wasn’t an established women’s team in Israel. She represents Israel as a basketball player and is also hoping to represent her country in rowing – a pastime she took up six months ago.

I asked Moran what it is that made her able to take such a terrifying situation and rise above it – to continue to achieve everything she’d wanted to – and more. And here’s what she said:

“What I’ve learned is that perfection is possible. Because perfection is about taking the things that don’t work and the flaws – whether it’s a wheelchair or something else – and realising that’s what makes you beautiful. What you bring to the world isn’t what you look like or what you have – it’s what you give.”

And if that isn’t the most inspiring thing you’ll read today, I don’t know what is.


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