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Brains and Brawn… Paul and the two little pencils: Part 4

BY ALEX CAMPBELL

Paul Anderson earned many monikers throughout his life.

“The Dixie Derrick” was first, referring to his massive steel frame. Later the Russians would weep and title him, “chudo piryody” which means “The Wonder of Nature”.

But Paul was entering a different era of his life, with many now referring to him as Randall Strossen subtitled his biographical work about Anderson, “The Mightiest Minister”.

This later phase, although not dotted with his previous awe-inspiring physical exploits did include his heaviest lift.

The youth home, inspired by his childhood bully, cemented by the crumbling lives he saw in detention facilities during his travels, and founded by his Herculean efforts to keep it financially afloat was taking a toll.

Bright’s disease reared its ugly head once again, and the one-time strongest man in the world was on the verge of death.

It goes to show that even the strongest man in the world has his limits.

When he was young, he took to strength training to overcome the doctor’s dire warning, but now, there was nothing he could do to get past this obstacle short of having new kidneys.

Fortunately for Paul, there was a donor and they were a close match. It seems that Paul was not the only Anderson child that learned well from their parents how to give to others.

His sister, Dorothy, donated one of her kidneys to help her brother carry on with his dream a little longer.

For eleven years, Anderson struggled on facing ruptured colons and comas, but he continued to pour what was left of his strength into the lives of those young men in his care.

But everybody has its limit, even Paul’s.

He passed on August 15, 1994. Some may say that 61 years is a short life. Some may say he should have listened to his doctor who warned him that exerting himself would shorten his life.

Maybe we should look at it another way. What if the measure of a life is not how much time a person lives, but the times you put into life? If Anderson would have never taken to weight training, who knows, maybe he could have squeaked out a few more years of life.

I do know, however, what would have been missed if he would not have lifted weights.

If he would never have been bullied, he would never have lifted weights. Without his love of weights, he would have never found success in Olympic lifting.

If he never found success in lifting, then he could never have become famous. Without fame, he would never have traveled the country and been reminded that there were troubled young men that needed a champion.

If he would have never found fame through his strength, he would have never been able to raise the money for his youth home. And without the financial needs of that home, he would never be pressed to travel the world speaking of Christ’s healing power to others.

Sure, Anderson did not live as long as some, but he packed so many amazing moments, self-sacrifices, and love for others into those sixty-plus years that you would be hard-pressed to fit that into ten lifetimes.

In fact, that big, full life of Anderson’s and the good that he did still can’t be measured. His home is still there, youth are still being helped, and lives are still being changed.

And what about that schoolyard bully and those two little pencils that began Paul’s story? They were the most important events of all.

In everyone’s life, there will be struggles. I have seen people bullied for being too fat and too thin, too tall and too short, too poor and too rich.

The truth is, there will always be people who look for differences to exploit to make themselves feel better while putting others down. Sadly, I do not know if there is a way to stop it.

However, what I do know is that we all have the power to decide how we are going to react to it.

Paul could have believed what he learned from that bully; that he was no good and would never amount to anything.

He might have listened to the doctor that said he was too weak and sick to accomplish anything with his life. But what made Anderson special was that he chose to believe something else.

He chose to believe that God had a plan for his life and had given him a will to work hard and set his own destiny. When many would have let their life be consumed with thinking of getting revenge on the bully, Anderson only thought of how he could help make young men better so they would never even become that bully.

This is the greatest gift that he has given us all.

We will all have setbacks.

Maybe you are already slipping on that physical or diet routine you made as a new year’s resolution. Maybe you were told things as a child that you believed.

Maybe you are even telling yourself things right now about what you can and can’t do.

Let the life of Paul Anderson remind us all that the most important thing about our future is not what others say about you, but it is what you say about you.

We all have our two little pencils’ worth of precious things that get broken, we all have our strong facade that gets shattered, and we all get knocked down.

Sometimes it is in front of others, and it is always embarrassing. The real question is, “What are you going to do about it?”

Even though Paul received many amazing gifts throughout his life like an Olympic gold medal, the Branch Rickey Award, a Golden Plate Award by the American Academy of Achievement, a mention in the United States Congressional record, and even a kidney.

Possibly the greatest gift he ever received was the gift of the bully and those two broken little pencils.