“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” Nelson Mandela
Of the nearly 300 profiles I’ve written, most are stories of survival. I started with my own. If reading about what I survived could help someone else, my struggles had benefit beyond the misery they caused me and the insight I gained. They had meaning.
After writing books about my marriage and cancer ordeals, I had a talk with God, my editor-in-chief. Dear God, I prayed, you gave me the gift of words. Could I take a break from writing about my own suffering?
Sensing a heavenly thumbs up, I was guided to write about other peoples’ survival. I’ve been gratified and overwhelmed by the stories I’ve heard. I featured Destry Ramey, a nurse who died recently but lived with spunk and determination for many years despite 7 different battles with cancer.
I wrote about Soon Hagerty, a Vietnamese boat person who came to America, became an entrepreneur and started a restaurant that gives 10% of every meal to charity.
And Elana Ackerman whose childhood struggles with leukemia inspired her to become a doctor.
About Derek Black, a white nationalist who publicly recanted his biased beliefs.
And Rabbi Danny Syme, whose brother’s suicide caused him to dedicate his life to suicide prevention. And. And. And.
I’ve been honored to share these stories and many more. Someday eons from now, this colossal wet blanket, Covid-19, will be a footnote in history. Someone’s great, great grandchild might be curious enough about their heritage to look online and gain inspiration from my words about their ancestors.
The stories I tell are mostly about resilience. Getting knocked down happens to the best, the brightest, the richest and poorest of us. It’s about getting up again. A process perfectly captured in that irresistible tune by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields from the 1936 movie “Swing Time.” The lyrics are as relevant more than 80 years later as they were when written, in the middle of the Great Depression.
“…Don’t lose your confidence
If you slip
Be grateful for a pleasant trip.
And pick yourself up
Dust yourself off
And start all over again.”
There’s another relevant wisdom that relates to resilience. A phrase we’ve all quoted dozens of times lately: “This, too, shall pass.”
Thinking the expression came from the Bible, I looked it up to quote chapter and verse. In fact, it’s not found in the Bible. It originated in the writings of medieval Persian Sufi poets like Rumi.
In 1859, Abraham Lincoln referenced it in recounting a story…
“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent a sentence… which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words, ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’ How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”
If Covid-19 has shown us anything, it’s how interdependent we are. We sink or swim together. The more careless we are about not wearing masks, breaking social distancing rules, touching our faces, the more of us will be jeopardized and lost.
Be consoled in these depths of affliction. This, too, shall pass. Please be vigilant. Let’s not pass with it.
Want to hear it from Astaire and Rogers?
Want to see the whole musical? Amazon rents it for $3.99. Netflix offers it for DVD subscribers, but not for streaming. For the moment, though, we’ve got 2 minutes of the hit song right here …