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July 10, 2008

Resilience, recovering from adversity…

Patricia A. Kelly

We all know people who have it. We all know it’s a life-affirming quality. It’s one of the attributes significant in high achievement, in finding happiness and even in longevity.


We’ve heard and read stories about it. We’ve read about people who are injured or crippled, who go on to pick up the pieces of their lives, find happiness and maybe help others along the way.


A story that comes to mind is that someone asked Henry Ford what he would do if he lost all of his money. His answer, “I’d make some more.”


Another example is George Washington, who screwed up so badly as a young military officer that he may have single-handedly started the French and Indian War! He came back to lead the winning of the Revolution against almost insurmountable odds, and to serve as a great first president. He was definitely a resilient guy.


Think also of Christopher and Dana Reeve. He fought until death against the health problems he sustained after his catastrophic fall from a horse. Not only did he work tirelessly to maintain his health, he also reached out to other spine-injured people, making a definite difference. His wife Dana, afflicted after his death with lung cancer, also fought to the end for a life of quality and joy. Her response to Christopher’s injury, as well as to her own illness, set an example for us all.


Our country is in the throes of difficult times. We’re involved in a very unpopular and costly fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our economy is sliding down the slippery slope. Many of us have seen our net worth plunge in terms of the value of our stocks and real estate, while we struggle to meet daily living expenses. Among the things we have to look forward to is a dramatic rise in home heating prices, as electricity deregulation takes hold, and with oil costs already through the roof.


Our resiliency is being challenged, and it’s a good time to rise to the occasion.


First, the green thing. I think Al Gore has been breathing too much ozone, but we’ve always known that long commutes decrease the quality of our lives, and cut deeply into our time with family and friends, not to mention our personal energy. Maybe it’s time to stop.


We know that we should audit energy use in our homes. We just haven’t been motivated enough to make sure the windows close tightly, and that we have good weather stripping around the doors, not to mention truly effective insulation.


We’ve been meaning to check out local entertainment and attractions. How many have not been to the Baker Park pool? It’s really beautiful there. Or how about Cunningham Falls, or the Catoctin Zoo. We could have a lot of fun around here while saving up for next year’s fuel.


Another area for resilience and re-birth is the upcoming election. I think we are in for some changes, as we try to re-invent ourselves.


Barack Obama has raised a lot of eyebrows with his small change in plans regarding withdrawal of troops from the Middle East. As I heard on George Stephanopoulos’ television show last Sunday morning, “It’s our fault if we didn’t expect that.” And, of course, it’s true.


Rhetoric aside, what will he or John McCain likely do, or be allowed to do, when they find themselves behind that big desk in the Oval Office. That’s the real question, as we prepare to vote.


Speaking of resilience, Jennifer Dougherty is a prime example. She has hardly ever won an election. She failed completely to build consensus during her term as Frederick’s mayor, even coming to near blows with one of the alderman in a City Hall corridor. She was rebuffed in the primary by her own party. She was so angry that she did all she could to throw the election away from her party to a Republican, whom she immediately began to criticize, unable to let go when she needed to.


But she keeps coming back. She won the mayoral race when the cards were stacked against Jim Grimes anyway. She beat Andrew Duck in this year’s primary, as he had become doughy, tired, and overconfident. Now I predict that she’ll beat Roscoe Bartlett.


People are looking for re-birth. They’re associating him with the recent history of Republican debacles; they’re noticing his age and they’re not looking closely enough at his record. Throughout the state, people will be looking at Ms. Dougherty as a young agent for change, and forgetting her record.


I spoke with someone close to Congressman Bartlett about vigorously telling the truth about both his and Jennifer’s records throughout the state, and was told that an open fight was beneath the dignity of his office. Too bad. If he loses, she won’t be an improvement.


It is time in a lot of ways for our resiliency to surface, and for our society and our government to re-invent themselves; and, maybe, for us as individuals to consider creating lives or responsibility and contribution.


As Rocky would say, though, “Let’s not take any cheap shots” at it. We need the real thing.


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