I mentioned in the last post something I have thought a great deal about and not just lately. It has been a topic, a question, that I have wondered on many a time. And my wondering ways have led me to nostalgically inquire, “Where has our “grittiness” gone?”
I have been watching with worry and a growing alarm what seems to be a lack of grit, determination and resolve that have become the concerning norm. Just last week our oldest daughter was interviewing her grandma Mimi. Asking her questions and listening to her childhood remembrances of WWII. The call was on speaker phone and I couldn’t help listening with no small degree of astonishment as she recollected a time and experiences most of us can scarcely imagine. Now I have read books that paint an impressively vivid picture of that part of our history, but hearing someone recount first-hand what they remember, what their life and experiences were like took my intrigue off of distantly penned pages and into the here and now. And as Mimi was sharing her stories, her life, I couldn’t help but wonder if we, now, are capable of enduring such hardship. I truly believe it is nearly impossible for younger generations to imagine war. War in a way that affects every single aspect of their life, their thoughts, their actions, their very being. Stories of everything from sirens, and riveting airplanes to rationing rubber bands. Stories of a collective suffering in the grips of both fear of what may come and the immense, indescribable grief that reached its insidious hands into every home, and every heart. We live in a world where even post 9/11 we seem to take our ease, our comfort and our safety for granted. It is profoundly humbling to dwell on a time when the entire world knew nothing of such things. They knew hardship, devastation and loss. And yet, for them and in them, was a collective strength. A resolve that seemed to be born out of hardship. Character that seemed inspired by the conflict, and an enduring, beating sense of integrity that grew out of unimaginable adversity.
These days, we consider it a hardship if our Wi-Fi doesn’t work or we can’t get a latte made with almond milk. We have not been forced to contend with fear, uncertainty, and challenges that test the very fiber of our being. My dad did several tours in Vietnam and what he saw time and time again was that war accelerated who and what we already were. Circumstances forced men and women to become the most extreme version of who they were able to be. Those who were steady and strong found courage of the most uncommon kind. They became leaders, supporters, friends, helpers and heroes. Those whose temperament was not so intact struggled more violently with the ravages of war.
So it begs the question. When our mettle is being tested. When our character is to be revealed through sorrow, struggle and circumstance, WHO are we? Do we go with the flow or mind our own business in the face of a wrong or injustice? Or do we speak up and stand the ground that our character rightly claims? Would we endure hardship with honor, nobility and strength or would we collapse in the face of challenge and adversity? When life and circumstances push us, do we push back or would we qualify as more of a pushover? Do we take advantage of opportunities to serve others or do we take advantage of others to serve ourselves? It was of no small interest to me to learn that HOPE is not an emotion. It is a way of thinking that is born out of resilience. If we are given the opportunity to struggle, to fail, to fall and to overcome THEN we have learned how to hope. We hope because we know we can endure. We do not FEEL hope, we EARN hope. We hope because we realize that hardship and strife does not happen TO us, it happens FOR us. It happens so that we may have the opportunity to learn, to grow, to find grace, compassion and strength that we may never have known without being forced into the fire. And that very fire can either burn us into something bitter and resentful or it can warm the embers of our resolve. It can light the flame of our own courage, resilience and belief not just in what is possible, but in what WE are capable of doing, overcoming, and achieving.
Growing up as an army brat, many of the guys I was friends with would say that they hoped there would be a war in their lifetime. As stunned as I was to hear this, I listened to the reality that what they really craved was to know, really know, without a shadow of a doubt what they were made of. Were they crafted out of courage, valor and dignity or would they be immobilized by their fears.
The reality is that we don’t need a war to realize who and what we are. Life itself offers far too many battlefronts already. If we are willing to see them as such, life offers countless opportunities to show our grit. Do we quit the job that’s too hard? Do we fight for our relationships or lay waste to hearts that needed to be held with gentle devotion? Do we surrender our values or abide by them no matter what it costs? Do we abandon our dreams because believing is just too hard? Do we forfeit our character to be liked by our peers? Do we parent our children or placate them? Do we commit to the importance of others or live in a fortress of busyness with no time to reach out and no place for others to reach in? Do we volunteer our time, our resources and our understanding or do we abandon our best intentions to excuses of overwhelm? Do we pursue excellence relentlessly or crumble at the slightest critique? Do we abide by our faith or concede it for convenience?
Every day we must wage war on complacence and mediocrity. Every day we are destined to reveal our character, our integrity and our courage. And every day a kind word, a gentle touch, a silent promise or a strong yet simple act of grace offers us a chance to be brave enough to make it all matter.