BY E. M. FORTIER
“. . . If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold On” . . . “
If by Rudyard Kipling
When the worldwide flu pandemic reached its height in 1918, my great-grandfather was a 34 year-old doctor working in a small town along the Mississippi river in Central Minnesota. He was one of only a few physicians to serve a vastly large area of farm lands and the small milling towns in between. He had a two-year-old son and another was born in November of 1918. His wife would tell the story that, for nearly a year, he never went to sleep in his own bed. He would sleep in chairs and couches between attending to the patients in the hospital, his home and their homes.
When I worry; when I question whether we can cope with the uncertainties of the time in which we live, I think of him and his wife and all the others who survived that trial only to face an economic depression eleven years later and then to send their sons off to a terribly deadly Second World War. Being ever the history lover, I’ve found strength in knowing the past has shown us that humanity can endure.
Yet, when I thought of them this morning, I started to waiver in my belief that their successes were ones we could emulate. I sat with my thoughts as the dawn of day grew brighter and brighter. Then a little voice broke the silence and asked if I could make orange juice. This small child brought me back when I had run away to doubt and dark feelings.
That is where our ancestors found the strength. It isn’t the idea of the grand picture of our future that drives us; it is the day to day needs, the beauty in the minutiae, the triumphs of the ordinary. . .
No one can tell us what tomorrow will bring. No one can tell us if or when the stock market will recover. No one can tell us who will live or die. They never could. That is the heartbreak and the euphoria of living – it is ever the surprise.
But it is a venture worth taking. To have lived our lives with no risk would be to have never seen the heights and the depths of love. To have avoided all sorrow would be to have never fully appreciated the profundity of joy. To have shied from the possibility of failure would be to have never entirely succeeded.
The prosperity of our civilization relies on you and I forcing ourselves to be brave in the face of uncertainty.