NPR logo

Resilience Is a Gift

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Resilience Is a Gift

Resilience Is a Gift

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.

Unidentified Man #1: I believe in mystery.

Unidentified Women: I believe in feeling.

Unidentified Man #2: I believe in being who I am.

Unidentified Man #3: I believe in the power of failure.

Unidentified Man #4: And I believe normal life is extraordinary.

Unidentified Man #5: This I believe.

HANSEN: On this Veterans Day, today's This I Believe essay was sent by listener Joel Schmidt. Schmidt is a clinical psychologist at the Outpatient Veterans Affairs Mental Health Clinic in Oakland, California. He's worked in the VA for 13 years.

Here's the series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON: Joel Schmidt says he finds our series to be a good counterpoint of the negative tenor of so much of what he hears in the media. In fact, he hears negative and even heartbreaking stories in his job pretty much every day. And yet, he realizes that from them he's derived a positive belief.

Here is Joel Schmidt with his essay for This I Believe.

Mr. JOEL SCHMIDT (Essay Contributor): I listen to people for a living. As a psychologist in the Department of Veterans Affairs, I hear about some of the worst experiences humans have to bear.

I have sat face-to-face with a Bataan Death March survivor, an Airman shot down over Germany, a Marine who was at the Chosin Reservoir, veterans from every region of Vietnam, medics and infantry soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq. I have spoken with people who have been assaulted and brutalized by their own comrades, and parents who've had to attend their own children's funerals.

I have gained a surprising belief from hearing about so much agony: I believe in the power of human resilience. I am continually inspired by the ability of the emotionally wounded to pick themselves up and keep going after enduring the most traumatic circumstance imaginable.

Iraq veterans describe to me the constant hell of unpredictable IED attacks and invisible snipers. By the time they get home, many can't drive on the freeway or be in the same room with old friends. One vet described being locked in an emotional cage between numbness and rage.

Emerging from this terrible backdrop, many Iraq vets have surprised me with their drive to recover and their unpredictable ways for giving back some meaning to their lives. For example, there was a veteran whose most powerful therapeutic experience was helping his grandmother keep her small business running. This cause gave him a reason to care, someone to emotionally connect with and ultimately a reason to get up in the morning.

This might sound like naive optimism when in fact treatment is often long and hard, and not every story has a happy ending. Some days when I go home my head hurts. I feel sad or worried or angry or ineffective. On these days, I have to appeal to my own strategies for self-care, pick myself back up and keep going.

I went to school to learn how to help people get better. Instead, it is often the very people I have spent my career trying to help that remind me how to care for myself. I keep a catalog of them in my head, and I try to use this list as a road map, an inspiration and a reminder of what human resilience can achieve.

I make it a point to complement the strength and ingenuity of the people who sit in my office. But the truth is, I don't think many of them realize the depth of my admiration. Sitting in the room with these people every day allows me to hope that I might also find the strength to face future problems. This solid sense of hope is a gift, and it is my humble desire to share it with the next person who sits with me.

ALLISON: Joel Schmidt with his essay for This I Believe.

Schmidt says that it's part of his job to train interns, and this essay was a way of explaining why the job is so important to him.

You can find information about submitting your own statement of belief at our Web site, that's You'll also find all the other essays sent in from around the world.

For This I Believe, I'm Jay Alison.

HANSEN: Jay Allison is the co-editor with Dan Gediman, John Gregory and Viki Merrick of the book "This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women."

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.