It’s often said that in times of despair we are able to draw upon a reserve of strength that will carry us through the darker days. Recently we have seen news articles showing just that – people who are prepared to leave their homes and families to try to find a better, safer life. We’ve seen TV footage of refugees fighting for their places on trains taking them to places that they don’t know simply because the idea of staying where they are is too awful to contemplate.
However, for “despair” you can also read illness, bereavement, fear or any one of those situations which make you feel as if the sunlight has been eclipsed from life and will never return. We’ve all had times like these in our lives and yet to a greater or lesser extent we have all picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and faced the world again, sometimes more wary and sometimes braver and stronger. So where does this reserve of strength come from? What is it that makes some people get out of bed and carry on whilst others go into a decline? Who chooses who has that strength and for whom the circumstances of their lives become too much?
For some, it’s unquestionably a gift from God, but what about those who don’t believe? A lack of faith doesn’t preclude them from being as strong as anybody else, and whilst they may not have the same belief that they are not alone in facing their dark days, it doesn’t necessarily stop them from turning their faces to find the sun. Perhaps it’s our determination not to let our families or ourselves down. Perhaps it’s an unshakeable feeling that there is something better just over the horizon. Perhaps, no matter how pessimistic the outlook, we are all hard-wired with an optimism that doesn’t allow us to believe that we can fail. Perhaps it’s just how some families are.
My husband was talking to someone recently who said that we all “create the weather for our children”, meaning that our outlook on life helps to form their outlook on life. Isn’t that a lovely expression? I look at my own parents and I see people who stood up to fight personal adversity, not hide away in a corner. I see people who would not be stopped by what life threw at them, and were determined to make the best of the time that they had. I see people who were brave at times when I don’t know if I would be so brave myself. For them, the outlook might have been gloomy from time to time, but they were the type of people who didn’t avoid the showers but learned to dance in the rain.
It’s not until we come to reflect on our personal weather forecast that we realise that we have a choice, for our families and ourselves. Who chooses who has the strength to get up and carry on? We do.
In memory of my Dad, 1936-2015