A picture of 29-year-old David Douglas and 12-year-old Lindsay Ratcliffe has been making its way across the Internet for a very special reason. David, a powerlifter, is sporting a shirt that reads, "Strong" on the back of it. But look farther down on the shirt, and the word "Stronger" is written with an arrow pointing directly to Lindsay who is walking next to David, holding his hand.
Lindsay, who suffers from progeria (a rare and fatal condition causing premature aging in children), doesn't look strong when compared to the 330-pound, 6-foot-tall powerlifter (who also happens to be a Marine vet). But looks can be deceiving.
"People looked at me as strong when everything about her was stronger," David said.
The two first met at an event that was designed to help raise funds for children with rare diseases, and they have been good friends ever since.
At first glance, people may think it is David who is strengthening Lindsay. After all, Douglas surprised Lindsay by flying to Michigan, where Lindsay lives, to complete a charity walk with her. But it is Lindsay who brings the strength to the relationship.
May 7th is the day! For what you ask?! For the 11th Annual Miles For Miracles walk fundraiser event for Progeria...
When David went into surgery for his bicep, Lindsay flew in and surprised him at the hospital with a pillow that resembles a shark to bring him comfort and let him know he was not alone.
"'That had me broken down,' David said. 'To be going through what she is going through and still make that big of an effort to lift someone else's spirits blew me away. I will never forget that moment.'"
Most children with progeria die by the age of 14, but Lindsay will live in the hearts of many forever. Her example teaches us that no matter our struggle or hardship, we can always lift and strengthen others.
It's not our circumstances or medical diagnosis that define who we are, but what we choose to do in those circumstances can bring depth and color to our life and the world around us.
Both Lindsay and David are examples of how beautiful life can be when love and friendship are our only motivation. They are an unlikely pair brought together to teach the rest of us how to make life meaningful.
"You would never know that she was fighting something so hard," David said, "because she is always smiling."
Lindsay's smile is contagious, and the dynamic duo's story has brought much goodness to the lives of those who have been touched by it.
David's shirt truly does say it all. He is strong; after all, he can lift 770 pounds; but Lindsay is stronger. Her strength of character and cheerful attitude is something we can all learn from. No matter what we are asked to face in life, we can face it like Lindsay, with a cheerful attitude and a contagious smile of pure joy and heartfelt love.