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Resilience is a Verb


We hear lots of talk on resilience these days – developing resilience, qualities of resilience, raising resilient kids, and of course examples of resiliency. Often resilience is spoken of as a “thing,” a “quality,” or a “state” one enters, and it can take on a magical sort of essence. How do I get that, how do I be more like that resilient woman or that resilient man?

Those are misguided (aka wrong) ways of understanding. Resilience is not a noun; it’s a verb, an action, a process of doing. It’s not a static personality trait. Resilient people can falter in un-resilient ways, and those assumed to lack resilience can thrive in the face of adversity.

Some 20 years ago, I attended a friend’s wedding; the church was at the base of a Utah mountain, surrounded by incredible vistas. At that time, the church was undergoing some construction. As one’s eyes marveled at the majestic mountain tops and then traveled downward to ground level, there sat, just outside the large window, a huge, obtrusive yellow bulldozer. The priest spoke of marriage in all the clichéd ways we’ve come to expect at these events, but then offered a powerful insight:

“We look at that glorious mountaintop and like to think marriage is about THAT, but it’s not. Marriage is far more about the ugly, dirty bulldozer.”

Amen, brother!

I didn’t know it then, but he was right, and it applies to resilience, too. Resilience is not about some spiritual or high emotional IQ quality that some have, and others lack. It’s about recognizing the power of the bulldozer, and the work that is ahead, and the courageous act and choice of turning the key of the bulldozer to start the work.

It’s about Sr. Margaret of Coleman F. Carroll High School in South Florida, who you know as the “chainsaw-toting Nun.” The Nun who, after Hurricane Irma struck, took to the streets buzzing away at tree limbs. www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/09/13/chainsaw-toting-nun-helps-post-irma-cleanup/663659001/

It’s about Dave Navarro, guitarist-singer-songwriter and founding member of Jane’s Addiction, who at age 16 experienced the murder of his mother through domestic violence, and turned that tragic loss into a passionate mission to speak out against such violence.

It’s about the numerous ways that every-day heroes choose to “do the work” of getting their lives moving forward, and helping others do the same.

An often-used truism is “hope floats.” Indeed, hope does float, but it doesn’t swim – it keeps us above water, but it can’t move us. For that, we need to do the work, and sometimes that work requires bulldozers, sometimes chainsaws, sometimes the bully-pulpit of a rock stage. But it always starts with a choice and an action to take. So keep on doing the work when you can, where you can, for whom you can.

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