Elizabeth Coker describes how an accident left her face disfigured, and the how the process of exerting extra effort to overcome her self-consciousness developed a love for people, a respect for tolerance, and a joy in laughter.
And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Mrs. Elizabeth Boatwright Coker is a combination wife, mother, and author. She and her husband, a paper manufacturer, celebrated their twentieth wedding anniversary in 1950 by the publication of her first novel, Daughter of Strangers. Her second novel, The Day of the Peacock, was published recently. Here is Mrs. Coker.
When I was 16 years old, I suffered a terrible blow on the right side of my face that broke my cheekbone, cracked my jawbone in several places, and knocked out my front teeth. The first time the
doctor let me look at the grotesque image of myself in the mirror, I fainted. But fortunately I had a sensible, as well as a loving, father who refused to let me hide myself in the back room but took me driving, in our red Overland Touring Car, through the streets of our little town, as soon as I was able, forcing me to make the effort to smile and speak pleasantly to everyone we met.
This was a hard thing to do; but harder was the learning to greet each day, as well as to meet each day, to realize that the world was not a cushion to be sat on, but a challenge that must be met. Accepting this has helped me build a sustaining faith and a state of mind that has, ever after, given
me the fortitude to stand up and face cruel disappointment and the loss of many whom I loved most dearly.
By not shrinking from people, I have always been singularly rich in friends of all ages. I think, in my desperation, I came to believe that it was up to me to go the mile beyond the other mile in order to secure and hold friendships. Of course, I was mistaken in such an idea, but that extra mile has held some of the sweetest experiences life has offered me. Too, it has made me more generous of sharing myself with others, teaching me to regard each person as precious and vital to me. People, in themselves, became important, not just humanity in the abstract—they are easy to love, for they make
few personal demands—but also the ones who came alone, knocking at the door of my heart to let them in for comfort.
I believe in the blessed balm of laughter. Even laughing in the dark is a more melodious sound to our Creator than whimpering over our fears and incapacities. By developing an innate sense of humor, I have passed smoothly through many situations that would have undone me had I tried to destroy them with criticism and caustic comments. If we place the proper value on laughter, we learn to believe in tolerance, which, in the end, is my strongest credo.
I believe in tolerance of races, of the weak ones, the different, and even of those who have climbed
higher than ourselves. As the years have passed, medical skill has worked wonders. The face that looks out at me from my mirror has become more like the face remembered from childhood. I suppose it is my adjustment to life that I have become accustomed to. I do not mean that I have not “kicked against the pricks,” as St. Paul did. My adjustment has consisted of kicks aplenty. Yet today, the face in the mirror shows a measure of fulfillment that makes up for its lack of perfection.
That was Mrs. Elizabeth B. Coker, who lives with her husband and two children in Hartsville, South Carolina.