Sometimes I am just a big ol’ quitter. I admit it. When I was eleven years old, I quit Girl Scouts because I was tired of walking to the meetings and I heard the next badge had to be swimming and I was scared of the water. My brother and sister will tell you that when I used to play board games with them I had a bad habit of quitting when I was losing. Not only that, I would also turn over the board and knock their pieces off of it as I left the room.
Therefore, I’ve spent the last twenty years learning how to persevere from people around me, but no one role-modeled perseverance better than my grandmother. A minister’s wife most of her life, grandmom received her college degree when many women were going straight from high school to marriage. She was an involved minister’s wife, and she and my grandfather fought for the rights of women in the church and championed diversity issues in a time when it could have cost them their lives.
My grandfather died suddenly in his fifties, and grandmother was left without a driver’s license or a means to support herself. As her grandchild, I never remember her seeming afraid or sad. She learned how to drive, and although she was a terror on the road she drove with tremendous enthusiasm. She also walked into a place of business and demanded a job, and got it. She bought herself a car and paid for her own apartment
At the age of seventy-four, my grandmother was taken to the hospital — but not because of a heart attack or stroke. No, my grandmom had gotten hit by a softball playing on the youth softball team. She walked away with a minor bruise. Here’s what Loretha Eudora (seriously – how could you not learn perseverance with that name?) taught me about not quitting:
1. If you quit, you’re turning your back on life. Amazed by the glory of each day, grandmom could not stand to see an opportunity squandered. She believed that every moment was filled with tremendous hope, and that quitting was a way of turning our back on a gift.
2. Your purpose is greater than your circumstance. Grandmom always said that when granddad died she cried almost every night to let her grief sink into her pillow. But when she awoke, she held her head high because she had a greater purpose that day . . . as much as she missed him, her life’s mission was bigger than even her spouse. She had people to help.
3. Quitters never win. Quitters made my grandmom sad, because she said they were miracles that didn’t believe in themselves. As children we were allowed to cry or be afraid in the presence of Grandmom, but we were never allowed to quit.
4. Some days perseverance means putting one foot in front of the other. She always stressed that some days you might move forward slowly, but you never stand still. Life was always moving, and you were responsible for moving too. She helped people every day, and showed me that giving to others got the feet moving faster than introspection and a “why me” attitude.
When I was six years old, we left Virginia for California. Grandmom was left behind, in a new life with a new driver’s license and job, and her support system was driving away. On that day, Grandmom drove my brother, sister and I to buy a small gift of our choosing (she gave us a monetary total but allowed us to buy whatever crap we wanted) while mom and dad packed. All the way to the shopping center she had us roll down our windows and yell “Look out world, here we come!” She honked her horn and almost ran over a few people, but we loved it. I still remember the slimy feeling little brown and green mouse I chose as my gift, and how delighted Grandmom acted with such a ridiculous choice. When we drove off, she smiled through her tears and waved like a maniac. She let us leave with joy.
Years later, as I sat in a house sick while my parents and siblings went to Disneyland with the church, Grandmom flew in for a few days. On the day of Disneyland, she called a yellow cab that would take us to the grocery store. She knew that neither my brother nor sister had ever ridden in a cab, and she made it such a magical journey you would have thought I was in Cinderella’s stagecoach. I didn’t miss Disneyland at all that day.
I know that she returned to a lonely apartment in Virginia a few days later, but she didn’t care. Because grandmother knew that life was about giving to others, and persevering one step at a time. I think my grandmother would have been proud of Kerri Strug in the clip below, who reminded all of us that something perserverance is best attained one small, painful step at a time.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFn47a_Ny0Y[/youtube]
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