An Uber driver gave me a wonderful lesson in African history, Ethiopian antiquities, and the history of emigration the other day…after he tested me to see if I was just being polite or if I really wanted to know. I got out of this car with three study assignments and a tinge of sadness for never learning about his homeland before. He ignited my heart as all good teachers do.
Experiences like this are reminders of the unmined treasure and talent all around us.
I could have just stared at the back of his head. So glad I didn’t.
Look disappointment in the eye…and plow on through.
That’s what Ben Ferencz has been doing since successfully prosecuting twenty-two Nazi SS officers for atrocities in 1947; fighting relentlessly against genocide and oppression all over the world. When asked by CBS if it discouraged him that the world was still full of injustice, he said, “No. It takes courage not to get discouraged,” then reminded Lesley Stahl of the progress that had been made.
It takes courage not to get discouraged is a bit redundant, yet, because I am a person who throws in the towel too easily, it has become my new motto. Thank you, Ben, for your inspiration.
The most moving moment in the movie Hacksaw Ridge was the prayer for “just one more” from the medic who needed the strength to rescue just one more of the seventy-five wounded soldiers he saved on Hacksaw Ridge during World War II. I thought of that resolve and request for strength today when I was facing my weensy little tasks and feeling the lack of motivation and energy.
So when I am overwhelmed by the prospect of making it through a “difficult” day, the answer lies in simply making it through the next step, not the whole frickin list.
Just this one breath. Just this one task.
“Just one more,” seventy-four times, saved seventy-five lives in impossible circumstances.
Whether we know it or not, our willingness to persevere will always make a difference for others.
“Not loneliness, but solitude. Not suffering, but endurance, the discovery of grim kinship with the rocks and sky. And the finding here of a harsh peace that would transcend bodily discomfort, a healing instead of the wounds of the soul.”
– Diana Gabaldon (referring to Jamie Frazer from the Outlander series)
It’s fiction, although, through the character of Jamie Frazer, author Diana Gabaldon challenges us to strength, resilience, and patience in difficult circumstances.
I am not lonely. I am learning solitude.
I am not suffering. I am learning endurance and kinship with creation.
I am not wounded. I am learning a harsh peace that transcends pain and discomfort.
We can label this as way too unreal or romantic, or we can look and learn from countless men and women throughout history who have raised the bar by conquering their circumstances.
Do I need to list their names?
Today, I inaugurate myself
As the commander in chief of my own future
I celebrate my promotion
To the role of the productive leader
Of my life, full of promise and hope
Out off yesterday’s role of
Chicken little, hopeless victim, or discouraged martyr
Today I will usher myself
With a flourish and a solemn promise
Into my new position of power
Supported by the noble and the brave
Who have gone before, and will come after
Those who chose, and will choose
Action over words
Mercy over malice
And resolve over fear
Tom Wolfe’s new book, The Kingdom of Speech, is so intriguing and entertaining that I missed a dozen turns while listening to the audio in my car. Never would I have imagined being so captivated by the history of scientific research on the subject of speech acquisition! Yet, wow, what a journey Wolfe took me on, dicing up historical legends and institutions, serving them up with scathing humor, and alerting me to the marvel of speech and mankind’s embarrassing inability to define it.
Again, I am moved by what I don’t know…and haven’t even thought about knowing. I hope it will remind me today to be more…
- humble when I am tempted to think I am hot stuff
- aggressive in using my free time to learn (instead of veg)
- respectful of all fields of knowledge and their impact upon us all
- Remind me that life is much larger than my own drama.
- Confront me with my need for historical knowledge.
- Challenge me to care about the millions everywhere who suffer in the wake of war.
- Confirm the fragile nature of life as I know it.
- Give me a sense of urgency to contribute good to the world.
Those of us who are younger than WWII most likely will think of the movie or give the day a passing nod. But, if we choose to give it more than that, we will be the beneficiary.
Our short lives are pleading for us
Begging for us to stop and care
Our mission here might simply be
To be aware
I thought I had a pretty good grasp of what happened at Pearl Harbor until I was confronted with the stories of a family who never received the remains of their son, missing in action from the USS Oklahoma, and from survivors who were stuck in the upturned hull of the USS Arizona for thirty hours, watching hundreds of their shipmates drown while desperately waiting for rescue.
As in this sad case, I have often assumed I knew more than I did, and so offended those who really knew.
When I reach for a broader knowledge of things I have not experienced (instead of assuming I understand), I honor the suffering of those who really know. When the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor comes on Dec 7th, I’ll be prepared to learn.
I don’t know very many families without dysfunction of some type, or without multiple varieties of dysfunction, yet, so many who suffer with difficult family relationships, to their detriment, go on believing…
- they are alone in their suffering
- their pain is worse than that of others
- they have been cheated out of the family they need and deserve
Peace came for me when I scanned ancient and recent world history enough to be convinced that…
- families have always been a breeding ground for ego, jealousy, unrealistic expectations, and selfishness
- those who escape the “smallness,” train, and gain wisdom on the family battleground, will be useful for many generations to come
- accepting what is, instead of arguing with this reality, is the first step to freedom
Anger won’t fix it.
Euphoria won’t last.
Even the best of humans will need forgiveness.
There are no deliverers and magic potions.
The only elixir for election hangover?
Courage to look square in the face of our humanity
In whatever form it threatens
And ask for help.
And be help
Without animosity for winners or losers.
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in…
Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1865