“I’d like a do-over for 2018,” my husband says to me in his new raspy voice. It was Groundhog Day and we’d barely made it off the starting block for the year.
His comment caused me to pause. I guess things had been a little bumpy lately. In fact, we had not until then verbally acknowledged the silent inventory of recent events that I had been subconsciously calculating in my head. Sudden illnesses including blood clots, the flu, bronchitis and laryngitis. Sprained ankle, broken toe and subsequent medical bills. Unexpected expenses, loss of income, frozen pipes, nearly every major household appliance shutting down, permanent hearing loss, dead car battery and the list goes on.
In less than 40 days our family had encountered 20 different “stop you in your tracks” kind of setbacks. At least 20 is the number of events that I could recall in that moment, when I finally decided to write them down. I cringe when I read this because the thought of putting our vulnerabilities on display makes me sick to my stomach. Yet, there are bigger lessons encapsulated in this small window of our lives, and I’d like to share how one might view this through a different perspective.
Glancing over this fresh list of wounds actually provided an unexpected and welcome surprise. Rather than loathing, self pity, or an overwhelming sense of defeat- I felt gratitude, humility and and an air of hope. Grace swept over me. There is something about the process of being knocked down that provides an opportunity to get back up. And when undergirded with faith, forgiveness and perspective, the rising can be a great strengthening exercise.
As I thought about our circumstances, in my mind I began to canvas all of the faces of individuals I’ve known to whom life had given a disproportionate amount of sucker-punches. People who through the conditions of poverty had faced social exclusion, discrimination, economic and physical hardship.
And I saw them getting back up.
When one job was lost, they picked up two more. When they faced physical hardship, they turned their energy toward caring for others. As funds became tighter, their creativity leveraged every resource they had. Yet, in the communities where they lived, many were seen only in relation to their defeats. Shame filled the space where redemption should live.
The question we must ask ourselves in our quest for youth, wealth or perfection- where are we missing out on opportunities to find wisdom, strength and life from the broken? In our newsfeed, dinner conversation, books and podcasts – whose voices are we listening to? Our communities desperately need the voices of those who have faced immense challenges. We need the wisdom of those who have earned a few extra wrinkles and scars. We need to trust and invest in those who keep getting back up. When we consider our own communities and the neighborhoods facing critical need – have we calculated a balance sheet that categorizes people as liabilities, and perhaps are overlooking our greatest assets?
How might the resilient in your community share their wisdom and offer their leadership?
by Marlo Fox for Think Tank, Inc. — to learn more about Marlo’s work, please visit thinktank-inc.org