Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Grace Under Pressure

Adapted from Sunday Musings…

Grace under pressure. The theme running through Hemingway’s collected works is that of men exhibiting grace under pressure. His writings were informed by, in part, his close observations of the Spanish Civil War (A Farewell to Arms) and his time among other hard men outdoors (The Old Man and the Sea).

In suburbia, the home of most Americans, we witness not so much grace as desperation. Men and women separated from the frontier by three or more generations, separated from systemic hunger and deprivation by as much as well, now have fewer models to follow when faced with pressure or failure or tragedy. More Tom Joad than Job, and more rare still the selfless grace of Joad’s savior.

And so it is all the more striking, alarming even in such stark contrast ,when we see not quiet desperation but quiet grace under the pressure of tragedy or deprivation or loss. There aren’t many, but there are still families where illness or job loss means someone doesn’t eat. Usually a parent so that a child does not go to school with an empty belly but occasionally a child as well. These gentle souls quietly struggle on with grace and dignity, and accept what help there is with equally quiet gratitude.

Men and women lose sons and daughters, husbands and wives who die in the service of their country, either defending Her abroad or on the streets here at home. It’s amazing, don’t you think, how infrequently we hear those left behind rail at the injustice of this particular loss. Striking how rare it is to hear them flail at those who march on through life unaware of this loss, unaware of the sacrifice that had been made so that they might walk still unaware. Grace.

What may be the cruelest example one can think of is knowing you will die,while knowing pretty much WHEN you will die, and knowing that you are essentially powerless to alter your fate. It happens every day around us, you know. The lump returns in the breast that was “clear.” The bone marrow transplant fails. No heart arrives in time and the transplant never occurs. The cancer is inoperable at the outset, a death sentence meted out on diagnosis. The clock spins, the pages of the calendar flip, and you know exactly when they will stop.

I have a friend who has encountered this last scerario. Younger than I, he will never see a child graduate from high school. Never give a daughter’s hand in marriage. Never hold a grandchild. And yet…not a word of protest. Sadness to be sure, but no anger. Pleased and purposed to fill the few months remaining with whatever may come. Not terribly religious but graceful and filled with grace nonetheless. Would I demonstrate as much were I so afflicted? I confess that I just don’t know. I fear that I am a coward, and that my cowardice might overwhelm the courage necessary to live with such grace.

I share the small glimmer of hope, that tiny burning ember that my friend, his family, and all of us who love him husband and fan as we try to turn that ember into a flame. I will remember, always, my friend’s grace under pressure, and hope that this memory will give me the strength to do as much and as well should the need arise.

I’ll see you next week…

Comment #54 – Posted by: bingo at April 26, 2009 6:03 AM

One Response to “Grace Under Pressure”

  1. April 29th, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Beth White says:

    Grace under pressure may come from faith.
    Faith that there is a God or a greater spirit.
    Faith that there is a plan that we aren’t in control over. Faith that we have provided our best to those we love and a peace from that knowledge.
    Faith that our motives in life have been pure.
    Faith that there has been purpose to our existence or the existence of our loved ones.
    Faith that our work has been motivated not by greed, but by a desire to make meaningful contributions in our line of work.

    I do believe that you possess great faith my dear, however you ARE a coward. I don’t believe you would have the grace of which you speak here. Can it be learned, can you find it in your hobbies, does it come from keeping busy, I don’t know. God willing you have a long time before faced with the pressures of our dear friends, but the things that do give you pressure are eased by friends. Reach out to your friends in need, it helps you too. Surround yourself with special people and you will find grace through them. When we stand on our own two feet and don’t rely on a single person or thing for our strength we have more grace, of that I am sure.

Leave a Reply