A Story of Resilience

a story of resilience

I’ve spent a lot of time, these past several months, thinking about and researching the topic of resilience. As a matter of fact, I’ll be launching a new course on this topic in the next month or so. The purpose of the course is to help you become a stronger person, mentally and emotionally. I’ll be offering a framework for thinking about resilience as well as numerous strategies and practices to face life with greater resilience and confidence.

So let me introduce this topic by sharing a story of a personal friend who’s an example of resilience to me. His name is Jim Arbuckle. As you read his story, pay particular attention to ways in which Jim demonstrated resilience. We can learn a lot from the examples of others.

The Accident

I got a call from Jim in late November of 2020 and he told me that he got up early on a recent morning and was riding his bike along a wooded area next to the Minnesota River. Although he had lights on his helmet and bike, he didn’t see an 8-inch diameter tree branch, at head level, as he was doing about 10 miles an hour.

The impact knocked Jim off his bike and he fell 15 feet down to the river bed where he lay on his stomach, face in the leaves and mud. He couldn’t move any of his body from the neck down. He imagined a future of being totally paralyzed. His life would have so little meaning. He’d be a burden to his wife and family. He told me that he said a silent prayer and, although not sure about his future, he’d go along with whatever God had in store. At that moment, he recognized that faith and hope were still a choice and he began to feel some peace.

But he knew that his immediate need was to be rescued, not easy since he was down in the riverbed and not many people use this trail. The temperature was below freezing and he was cold.  He had his cell phone but no ability to use it. He resorted to yelling, but to no avail. Now losing his voice and developing a painful cramp in one leg, he began to pray. “Heavenly Father send me an early morning jogger and, if you wouldn’t mind, send him quickly.”

For another hour Jim continued praying. He felt excruciating pain in his body and dark thoughts kept trying to creep in. He remembered that his doctor had recommended no exercise for a while because of a recent surgery. Plus his wife reminded him of this the night before. He regretted not listening and realized his awful state came about because of his poor decision.

The Rescue

Then, a voice: “Are you Ok? Do you need some help?” Jon and Megan, two early morning joggers were running on the trail and saw a piece of his jacket. Jon climbed down the riverbank and using Jim’s phone called 911.  Afterward he told Jim, “You are the luckiest guy in the world, we generally don’t run here, but we did today and we even drove our car to get here quicker.”

It took several minutes for the EMTs to arrive. They came from two different fire houses. One came up the river in a boat and the other down the trail with a 4-wheeler. Before long, they had him on a stretcher and lifted up onto the river bank.  Then they took him down the trail to the ambulance waiting at the trail head.

Some Good News

In the hospital, Jim got some good news. He had only bruised his spinal cord in several places and recovery was possible, although uncertain just how much mobility and use of his limbs he would ever regain. His doctors treated him with screws and rods and a halo to fuse his vertebrae. And there would be a long period of physical and occupational therapy.

The nurses told Jim that he needed to try to move his arms and legs constantly to rebuild his nervous system. The problem was he received only three hours of physical therapy per day and was confined to his bed the other 21 hours. So he decided to use those hours to his advantage. He got rubber exercise bands and a hand squeezer. When not using these props, he worked at lifting his hands to touch the bed railings.

Not Following Protocol

But soon the doctors and nurses were pushing back at his hard work. Patients weren’t supposed to do their own therapy in their rooms. At one point, they put an alarm on him to call the nurses if he were to stand up from his wheelchair. And they refused to let him walk without a walker. But Jim was more interested in his healing that hospital protocol and so he pushed himself to stand on his own and walk. As his strength and feelings were slowly returning, Jim knew that his recovery depended on commitment and motivation, so he exercised every hour of the day. In truth, the work was painful and unpleasant.

Social Support

You may remember that Jim’s accident happened in the fall of 2020, in the middle of covid which meant that he could only have one visitor a day. His wife, Jean, came to the hospital for about ten hours every day, dressing him, feeding him, doing what he couldn’t do for himself. Her dedication touched Jim deeply. And during the three weeks of hospital therapy, he received many messages of encouragement from friends and relatives. Jean, his only visitor, read these messages to him and constantly wiped the tears from his eyes. The messages meant so much and gave him motivation and helped fuel his positive mental outlook.

Jim was released from the hospital after just three weeks, halo and all. His doctors told him they had never witnessed anyone progress so quickly and completely. Once released, Jim continued working out. In fact, he went to a local gym every day and even paid for a personal trainer. He used equipment at home and never missed an opportunity to walk outdoors. He started working with a chiropractor who would get underneath each arm and push until it was absolutely numb with pain. Jim still does the stretches every day. If he doesn’t do them constantly, he regresses.

Helping Others

As Jim became stronger, his goals of being independent and giving service to others were coming back. He felt he was receiving divine support and decided to help others who were struggling to walk. He knew one man with a cane in his church congregation. Jim took it from him and put it in a closet during the church services. The man walked around the church without it and went home, that day, walking on his own. Jim visited another man in assisted living. He’d suffered a stroke and lost the use of his left arm and most of his right hand. Jim started taking him to LA Fitness and taught him to use bands and regain as much use in his arms as possible. Jim teared up as he shared this. He could use his experience to inspire others.

Pushing Himself

Today Jim gets up at 6:00 am every morning and goes to the gym for a good workout—45 minutes of weights and a 45-minute swim. He mountain bikes with a friend and hikes with his wife. Last summer as a strength and confidence builder, he and a friend did a 300-mile kayak trip on the Mississippi River, camping on sand bars and cooking their own food.  It was very challenging with high water, strong winds, periodic locks, and barge traffic.

And then this past winter, for the first time since his accident, he tried snowboarding.  It took six runs to relearn the sport and will take a lot more work to regain the strength and skill he once had. Although not quite 100% in terms of movement and balance, he is doing almost everything he did before his accident.

Turning a Negative into a Positive

Even though it was a very hard experience and has diminished his physical abilities, Jim told me that he has gained some wonderful insights that he could not see before the accident. He appreciates his family and friends, understands the limited time one has in this life and need to weed out the negative emotions of doubt, fear and discouragement. He is using what he has learned to help others that lack the know-how and confidence to recover from similar injuries.

Well, I want to point out that people who develop resilience in the face of adversity, trauma and ongoing stress are agents in their own well-being rather than victims of their life events. Jim did not focus primarily on his injury and trauma. He refused to let himself be defined by this horrible event but instead focused on his power to create a beautiful future.

Other Examples of Resilience

Of course, Jim is an example of resilience as a result of a physical injury. There are so many other examples. I’m sensitive to the millions of people who have had to learn resilience because they grew up in difficult childhood circumstances, including poverty, neglect, abuse, or relationship instability. I’m also aware that millions of people have lived through traumatic events such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, an accident, natural disasters, war, or even social rejection or ongoing bullying. Lots of people have dealt with adversity and trauma in its various forms.

And even if you came from a relatively stable home or background, you may have gone through hard experiences as an adult. In fact, you may face, today, a constant barrage of adversity or challenges including family conflict, problems on the job, chronic pain, financial worries and even news about the state of the world that wear you down, cause you to feel stress and anxiety and rob you of your enjoyment of life. The pandemic of 2020 certainly had this impact on hundreds of millions of people from around the world.

So what about you? Have you lived through difficult circumstances or experienced traumatic events in your life? Or do you know someone who has, someone whom you admire? How have you/they coped? What have you learned from these experiences? How have they shaped you into the person you are today?

I invite you to leave a comment.



  1. Justin

    My favorite day is the day I open my emails and see that Roger has written something for us to read. I always know the investment of time will payback in multiples, and this article is no different. Learning how to deal with suffering in a resilient manner, while turning to God, instead of away from Him, seems to be to be a large portion of what we are here to learn to do. Thanks for this story, and the reminder.

    • Roger Allen

      You are welcome, Justin. Thanks for your kind words. It is true that a common theme for many people who demonstrate resilience is their faith which gives them hope and meaning.


  2. Aubrey Tennant

    What a extraordinary example of resilience through determination, faith and a capacity to see beyond what seems to be common practices such as the support in the hospital albeit well meaning!
    I’m not a religious person although I can appreciate Jim’s commitment to his beliefs. So many of us often turn to information and support online to try to get answers to our dilemma. Although there can be very good help there, all too often it’s a pool of sympathizers, complainers and revenge seeking groups fueled by an individual selling their healing program.
    Resilience is an inside job it would seem. Wether it be overcoming physical or psychological challenges, Jim’s story is a complete example of what it takes to thrive where most just hope to survive.
    Looking forward to your new program!

    • Roger Allen

      Hi Aubrey,

      Thanks for your kind words. Yes, Jim is a great example of resilience. I just spent 16 days traveling with him in Bolivia and it is amazing how far he has come. He’s not about to let anything keep him from enjoying and contributing to life.

      It’s certainly true that not everyone share’s Jim’s religious beliefs. There are so many factors that contribute to resilience. For many people, faith is one of those factors.

      I agree that it’s an inside job. I’ll be talking more about the different elements of resilience, upcoming. I have learned a lot reading and hearing the stories of people who have overcome hardship, whether acute traumatic events or chronic, ongoing stress.


  3. Deborah Atkinson

    Thank you for this! I just read it to my husband and mother-in-law, and we had the most wonderful discussion of resilience and faith. Thank you for making that possible.

    • Roger Allen

      You are welcome, Deborah. I am happy that sharing Jim’s story prompted such a good discussion with Brett and your mother-in-law. You guys are an example of dealing with hard things and never losing your hope and faith.

  4. Marilyn Brady Stevenson


    You and your Dad have been my inspiration! Thank you for all the inspirational stories you share. I along with so many others I can relate on so many levels.
    My adult life has been one trauma after another however, I learned what we need to do when life hits us and knocks us down is to get back up and look around to find someone hurting and help. Just as Jim learned “He could use his experience to inspire others.” I learned the way to survive and make sense of my deepest tragedy, when my son disappeared over 5 years ago, was to help others. I am on Board of Directors for 2 nonprofit cold case/missing persons organizations along with the only nonprofit DNA lab in the country and am now the CEO of another. I was not alone! There are thousands of families missing their loved ones and needing to find support and understanding while they search for what has happened to their loved one. I spend my days helping the living and am blessed to spend my evenings helping the dead. You can truly use any experience you have to help others and, in the process, find meaning, purpose and joy in life!
    Thank you both for teaching me what I needed to survive my trials!


    • Roger Allen

      Thank you, so much, for sharing your story, Marilyn. You have been through so much through so many years and are such an example of getting back up to keep going. I can’t imagine what heartache you’ve felt with the disappearance of your son. But to turn that into good is an inspiration to us all. I love how you’ve found purpose and meaning through service to others in your work with these nonprofits. I realize that is such an important way to deal with loss and you are showing us the way.

  5. Kelly Mitchell

    I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 46. I’m a male. I was carried down my stairs in a blanket on Nov 15 2015. I woke up and couldn’t move my left side. I didn’t know I had MS. I always thought my tremors were nerves, that took a toll. I was in the hospital including rehab for 75 days. I literally had to learn how to walk again. And now I am running 2 miles a day. Able to work after 5 years. I have chronic pain, fatigue. But multiple sclerosis has been a gift from God. It has made me appreciate people, nature, work, family. I don’t drink alcohol anymore. I’m treated for depression and it’s working, as well as it can I guess. I thank God for my journey and wouldn’t trade it. It is after all, my journey. I like your work Dr. Allen.

    • Roger Allen

      Thanks for sharing your story, Kelly. You are an example of resilience. And it is so remarkable that you’ve been able to focus on the good and would not trade your journey. Inspiring!

  6. Shaun Gifford

    I personally know Jim. He is an amazing man. Always looking to help others. I worked with him, with the youth. He wanted them to learn how to do hard things. I am grateful for his example. He forgives easily and encourages others quickly.
    I moved away and lost regular contact with him. I heard about his accident and felt terrible he had to endure this event in his life. He certainly did not deserve it.
    However, after reading more about the details of the accident I am not surprised by his recovery. This perfectly describes who Jim was and is even before the accident.
    He has great faith and knows he is a child of God. It is his strength. Thank you Jim. Thank you for sharing his story.

    • Roger Allen

      Thanks, Shaun. Nice that you know Jim. Thanks for sharing. He is amazing, one of the most service-oriented people I’ve ever met. His recovery from his accident is a great example to all of us. He’s one of the most positive people I know, very kind to all he meets. I’ll pass your message along to him.


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