I'm sure you'll be blest by this guest post by Jane Kirkpatrick. Be sure to check out her wonderful historical novels.
“And one form of heroism, about which few if any films will be made, is having the courage to live without bitterness when bitterness is justified, having the strength to persevere even when perseverance seems unlikely to be rewarded, having the resolution to find profound meaning in life when it seems the most meaningless.” Dean Koontz, The City.
For a long time I’ve avoided Dean Koontz books. I thought they would be so suspenseful I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night but my writing friends said he was a classic writer. Deciding that the new year means doing new things (“you must do the things you think you cannot do,” Eleanor Roosevelt) I decided to take the plunge and read a Dean Koontz book. The City was wonderful. And the quote above had me closing the pages and pondering.
I know so many “heroes” that meet this criteria. Most of them lived a hundred years ago. Emma Giesy whose husband drowned before her eyes while rescuing a stranger. It took her awhile, but she began to live without bitterness. Letitia Carson, a former slave who persevered despite the unlikelihood that she would win her lawsuit against a white justice system. Jane Sherar who found meaning through children, her neighbors, the Warm Springs people, when her hope for children of her own was never realized. Each of these and many more have taught me much about heroism as defined by Koontz.
I know such men and women are out there today, too. Some call them hardy; others call them pioneers. But enduring a hard time isn’t enough by this definition of heroism. It’s the state of mind that makes the difference, the courage to live without bitterness; the strength to persevere without reward, the resolve to find meaning when meaning seems most elusive.
New Year’s resolutions have never appealed to me, but I’m going to hang on to this particular definition as I write about the people who populate my days. And I’m going to remember these words when my mind might dissolve into bitterness or I’m too tired to persevere or when life seems meaningless…and yes, sometimes it does. I’ll remember that many have gone before me (you as readers, I might add) and as a result, I will take a deep breath, look out my window at my labyrinth and speak a Mary Oliver prayer of gratitude: “It is a serious thing/just to be alive/on this fresh morning/in a broken world.”