Home > Finding Strength: How to Overcome Anything
Finding Strength: How to Overcome
Apr 30 1998 - 11:00pm
Are some of us born more resilient than others? Can strength be taught? What
follows is a breakthrough report detailing what only decades of research can
show -- how people overcome terrible trauma, and just what it takes to survive
For most of us, high-voltage transmission lines are blots on the landscape.
They slice up the sky and emit a sinister little hum of energy that translates into
"Stay back if you want to see tomorrow." So, for David Miller to like power lines
so much -- to see in them uplift and promise and future -- well, you ±rst have to
understand the landscape of a child whose mother decided not to keep him.
He was born in 1960, in Reidsville, North Carolina, in a neighborhood of small,
neat ranch houses -- in the African-American-only part of town. This was, after
all, the deep South of over forty years ago. He lived with his grandparents. His
mother left him there; she couldn't do it, everyone knew that. She was 24,
pregnant by mistake. "It's not that I didn't see my mother," Miller says, "but my
grandparents raised me." Yet because his grandparents both worked -- his
grandfather at a dry cleaners, his grandmother as a laundry attendant -- "I was
a latchkey kid before the coin was termed."
And when they were home, they had little patience for a small boy's antics. "My
grandmother would save up my spankings all week," says Miller. "Friday was
judgment day." If the offense was grave enough, he ended up with welts across
You might imagine that he was a child standing on a slippery hillside, his birth
merely the ±rst skidding step downward. In his spare time, though, he used to
walk under the power lines. "It seemed like hours and miles," he recalls, "but I
was pretty small." And he'd follow them with his feet and then his eyes until they
disappeared into the clouded edges of the sky. And he'd think about where they
went and wonder about the world beyond.