Tag Archives: perseverance

I Had Dared to Hope

I had dared to hope that I was finally healthy enough to bring energy and imagination to the world again.  But Whack-a-mole returned.  A few weeks after I wrote a New Year’s letter celebrating my improved health, I was diagnosed with heart failure almost as severe my original diagnosis 13 years ago. A specialized pacemaker, a new medication and medically supervised exercise hold out the hope of a stronger heart.  I need ways to hold onto this hope and persevere in “working the program.”

As the U.S. commemorates the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this week, words of King included in an article in the Washington Post inspire me to keep on keepin’ on.

In “King was unpopular and demoralized before he died. He pressed on anyway,” Stephen Kendrick and Paul Kendrick remind me of both a part of the Civil Rights struggle many of us forget and the perseverance of hope:

The shot that echoed in the Memphis dusk 50 years ago still reverberates through our national life, yet there is so much about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. we find hard to absorb.

In our long effort to moderate King, to make him safe, we have forgotten how unpopular he had become by 1968. In his last years, King was harassed, dismissed and often saddened. These years after Selma are often dealt with in a narrative rush toward martyrdom, highlighting his weariness. But what is missed is his resilience under despair. It was when his plans faltered under duress that something essential emerged. The final period of King’s life may be exactly what we need to recall, bringing lessons from that time of turmoil to our time of disillusion.

Celebrating the march out of Selma, Ala., and his early prophetic optimism made sense in the heady Obama years.  Now, we need King’s determined faithfulness.

Once refusing to get on a flight in 1967, King called his wife, Coretta, from the airport saying, “I get tired of going and not having any answers.” His opposition to the Vietnam War cost him support. At a time of emerging Black Power, King’s dream of integration and nonviolence seemed to many insufficient, almost passé. Yet he died still trying to confront “the evil triplets,” how “racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together.”

An unguarded King who still speaks to us can be found in transcripts of Southern Christian Leadership Conference retreats. [At the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, S.C.,] he told his staff in 1966, “I am still searching myself. I don’t have all the answers.” He challenged them — and us — “I’m not talking about some kind of superficial optimism which is little more than magic. I’m talking about that kind of hope that has an ‘in spite of’ quality.” 

[Just four months before his assassination, he told a similar gathering,] “Hope is the final refusal to give up.” King did not just assert this but also lived the belief, by continuing to put his body into his nation’s gun sights. His lack of answers did not keep him from his destiny — which was not fate so much as the result of his choice to show up, to keep on.

Every era finds the King it needs. The version we need now is a King who pressed on through doubt to see a radical vision, as we must [with] the challenges we face. King ran out of certainty but never faith.
(Emphasis mine)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/king-was-unpopular-and-demoralized-before-he-died-he-pressed-on-anyway/2018/04/03/06f9f1d0-345b-11e8-8bdd-cdb33a5eef83_story.html

 

Kings, Pawns, Popes and Purpose

My reservoir of resilience ran dry this year.  It feels like the seams holding it together came apart and I have tried to re-stitch them.  Along the way, four threads of resilience, humility and hope have helped.

I found one thread in Vice President Joe Biden’s commencement address at Yale in May.  Biden described how election as one of the youngest ever to serve in the U.S. Senate fueled his “raw ambition” many years ago.  He was full of himself, he said, until six weeks after the election, when his wife and young daughter died in an auto accident and his two young sons clung to life.  He changed his focus and commuted four hours each day between home and Washington, D.C. so he could be with his sons every morning and evening. Biden said that being present with his sons and family suddenly meant more to him than all he had striven for.  He commuted for 36 years.  His priorities have remained the same ever since.  Ordinary relationships and people are more important than prestige, said Biden.

A second thread of resilience came from President Barack Obama’s eulogy for the Reverend Clementa C. Pickney, Pastor of the historic Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina.   State Senator Pickney and eight other African-Americans were massacred by a white racist in June at the end of an evening Bible study at the church.  Of Pickney, the President said,

 He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words, that the sweet hour of prayer actually lasts the whole week long, that to put our faith in action is . . . about our collective salvation, that to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society. . . .What a good man. Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized, after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say somebody was a good man.  You don’t have to be of high distinction to be a good man.

A third thread came from former President Jimmy Carter as he spoke about his diagnosis of metastatic melanoma.  When asked by reporters of what he is most proud and whether he wishes he had done anything differently, Carter responded,

. . . When I was president, for which I’m very grateful—that was the high point of my life, politically speaking.  But The Carter Center. . . . deal[s] with individual people in the smallest and most obscure and suffering villages and that has been far more gratifying personally. Going into the villages, learning actual needs, then meeting those needs has been one of the best things that ever happened to me.

I wish I’d sent one more helicopter to get the hostages, and we would have rescued them, and I would have been re-elected. But that may have interfered with the foundation of The Carter Center.  And if I had to choose between four more years [as President] and The Carter Center, I think I would choose The Carter Center.

The most recent thread and impetus to write came from Pope Francis’ visit to the United States last week.  Francis, from Argentina, is a Jesuit, served churches in slums, and rode public buses to work each day even after he becoming a cardinal.  Unlike previous popes, he eats in the staff cafeteria with custodians and cooks, and refuses as many of the traditional vestiges of papal wealth and power possible.  Experienced U.S. reporters were tongue-tied at the Pope’s simplicity and integrity when he stepped into in a Fiat hatchback upon arriving in the U.S.

pope-francis-arrives-in-philadelphia-a4a7dbb440aac5beFrancis ate lunch with 300 homeless people in D.C. instead of with congressional leaders; and paused gave attention to special needs children and their parents.  He visited poor children and their teachers in East Harlem, and prisoners in a Pennsylvania state penitentiary, held their hands and looked in their eyes as they spoke together.  He helped lead a multi-faith prayer service with Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Hindus at Ground Zero in New York where, instead of Christian exceptionalism,  he advocated mutual respect for all religions.  The Pope’s model of humility and solidarity with the vulnerable was an antidote to the self-righteousness, bigotry, judgement, and grandiosity which usually comprise the so-called Christianity most Americans see publicly presented.

Each of these people gave me a thread of resilience, hope, and purpose.  For although in powerful positions, each showed what matters most is not who one is–one’s status, wealth, or abilities–but the character of how one lives and the integrity of the love one demonstrates. One does not have to be of high distinction to be a good person.  At the end of our life, what is most important is that it can be said of us, “This was a good person.”  That is a purpose worth getting up for.

 

An Impossible Dream Come True

For those of us who live in Pasadena, the Rose Bowl is more than just a stadium or a championship game of American football on New Years Day.  It’s also a park, picnic grounds, soccer fields, an aquatic center, a golf course, and a three-mile bike/walk/run lane that beckons us to get healthy and enjoy life.  I used to “walk the Rose Bowl” often, but haven’t in a long time.  For over ten years, I’ve dreamed of walking that three-mile loop again.  I finally did it!

To be honest, if I hadn’t been a bit crazy with stress that Saturday morning two weeks ago and not thinking quite straight, the dream would still be in the future.  But, hey, the world would be dreadfully boring without a little wild craziness in it.  Right?

The weather was too glorious waste on a treadmill and my usual hike along the Arroyo seemed boring.  I went in search of a new venue and the Rose Bowl called my name.  I promised myself I would limit my walk to 40 minutes, and quieted the inner voice tempting me to walk all three miles.

At the 20 minute mark when I should have turned back, I was on the west side of the stadium, with my car on the east.  I convinced myself that, since I had already walked this far, I should finish the loop.  How bad could it be?  Besides, if I retraced my steps, I’d have to walk in the sun instead of the shade that I knew was up ahead.  Surely shade would be easier to take than the sun, even if the distance was longer.  (I forgot I still had to walk uphill in the sun to reach the shade.)

My stress-addled, oxygen-impaired, and dream-crazed brain used the fuzziest thinking imaginable to justify my decision to keep going:  I usually walk 40 minutes at an average speed of 2.7 mph for a total of 1.8 miles, but will be able to complete an extra 1.2 miles in  just an extra 10 minutes while increasing my speed only slightly.  And . . . since 50 minutes is just a little longer than 40 minutes, I will be fine and not overly exhausted.  Really?  I plowed ahead.

A few minutes later, a fleeting moment of sanity weaseled into my brain and I phoned my husband for a ride back to my car.  He promised to pick me up as soon as possible, but was still in the mountains with our dogs.  He headed back to his truck right away to get me.

“Why sit and wait for him here?  Go a little farther, and a little farther,” screamed the voices of temptation and perseverance inside my head.  Hubby arrived as soon as he could–just after I finished walking two more miles and reached my car.

DisneyCheshireCat[1]The Cheshire Cat could not have worn a broader smile than I.  My 10-year dream came true. I punched my fist in the air and looked skyward, “I did it. I did it.  I did it.”

When I told a friend what I’d done, he suggested I work towards a 5K (3.1 miles) charity walk.  Great idea.  I have a new dream to strive for.   I started training for a 5K by walking two miles thee times per week. God willing and the crick don’t rise, I’ll keep going.  Cross your fingers.

Impossible dreams don’t always come true, but as Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother sing in one of my favorite songs, “Impossible things are happening every day.”

*Cheshire Cat from Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland”