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Resilience

by the Rev. Paul McLain

 

One of the regulars at our Community Breakfast on Sunday mornings is an older man who goes by the street names of “Hippie” or “Shine.” He’s called Shine because that’s what he does – he shines shoes. This past Sunday morning, he gave my black shoes a long overdue shine and we visited as he polished them. He told me his business is down during the pandemic since so many people are working at home. He also had one of his bags with his best brushes and polishes stolen from him. But, as I paid him, he asked me to let his friend Pat Morgan know that Hippie says hello and is still “above ground.”

 

His story is one of resilience in the face of adversity. Despite all the obstacles thrown at him, he continues to find ways to do the work that he loves. Hippie just keeps on keeping on.

 

I had a conversation with a couple of priests last week and we talked about a move to add a sixth stage to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s famous model of the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. That sixth stage is resilience. It is the day-in, day-out work of moving forward and even finding meaning in the midst of our loss.

 

This week, we collectively grieve the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Among her many remarkable traits, her resilience stands out for me. She faced adversity early in life. Her mother Celia was diagnosed with cervical cancer during Ruth’s freshman year of high school. After school, Ruth rode the subway to the hospital to spend as much time as she could with her mom. Celia taught Ruth to embody the Jewish imperative of tikkun olam, which means “to repair the world” by pursuing justice and compassion and helping others. Celia died two days before Ruth was to be honored as a speaker at her high school graduation. Ruth lovingly stayed home with her father. Her teachers later delivered her many medals to her home.

 

In her battles against gender discrimination, Ruth faced many setbacks along the way. That didn’t stop her. She always imagined a new strategy, found a new argument, and forged a new path.

 

When she was near the end of her rope in her final battle with pancreatic cancer, Ruth got a call from Marilyn Horne, the great mezzo-soprano opera singer she so admired. Marilyn told Ruth that when she also received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, she said to herself, “I will live. Not I hope I will live, but I will live.” Ruth later said the effect of that call was invigorating, and firmly planted those three words in her mind as her mantra, “I will live.

 

Live, she did. And thanks in large part to her, our diocese is blessed with Bishop Phoebe Roaf, my wife is an attorney, and our nieces have infinite possibilities open to them. Where would we be without Justice Ginsburg’s resilience?

 

As I looked into the weathered face of Hippie on Sunday and as I see photographs of the wrinkles around Justice Ginsburg’s determined yet mischievous smile, I am reminded of the words of St. Paul, “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.” For only then, we will live.


24 thoughts on “Resilience”

  1. A friend of earlier times used to grieving people to live “in day-tight compartments,” “to get the days in,” so that some day they could look back and see how God had helped them win through. That advice has helped me many times,

    1. Milton, may God continue to help you and all of us “win through.” And may we take time to look back and appreciate that.
      Blessings, Paul

  2. What a lovely message about resilience. I needed to hear that, particularly today for some reason. Thank you so much, Paul.

    1. Julie, you’re very welcome. Glad it inspired you. I thought of healthcare workers like Bailey and Grace as I wrote about resilience. I know you’re very proud of their persevering work during this difficult time. Blessings, Paul

  3. In the last few weeks, I have been thinking and praying about the resilient Spirit in all of us. When I read your message today, Paul, I almost shouted Eureka! Thank you and bless you for the reminder of the Truth: There is One mind, One Spirit in all.

    1. Sherry, so glad this message about the resilient Spirit within each of us spoke to you. I miss seeing you in person but know that your resilient Spirit is in my prayers. Blessings, Paul

  4. Thanks for this Paul. Resilience is an important part of so many psychological constructs including self-efficacy but I need to remember to keep it in mind for my own functioning. Thanks for this uplifting message. You made my week!

    1. Clay, so glad this message made your week! I’ll be praying for your resilience day-by-day. Please pray for mine!
      Blessings, Paul

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