“The best way out is always through.” - Robert Frost
“Success doesn’t come to you, you go to it.” - Chris McLeod
Recently I spent a week in a small island town in the northern-most reaches of coastal Maine. Because of torrential rains, I had the opportunity to sit in the library and read about the town for several days. What unfolded was a story spanning several centuries of a people that got knocked to their knees with regularity, but always rose and found another way to sustain a viable community. One might argue that by being on the ocean this town has resources that others do not, but there are other towns along this coast that had things going at one time or another and today are all but dead.
Whole industries went under, terrible weather paralyzed the area, fires ravaged the entire community and still the community persisted. I read the story of one of the town’s sons whose father died in 1859 - when he was nine years old. At fifteen he struck out for the Midwest and landed a job as a farming implement salesman. The farmers didn’t have any money, so he started trading tools for crops. Two years into the venture, his warehouse burned and he found himself without insurance and owing $1,800. He took another job for a while and within a couple of years he had paid back every penny and was able to open his own business again.
He became proficient at getting the crops to market, and by age 40 he owned more grain than anyone in the world – businesses or individuals. The man donated the library I was using back in the 1890’s. In a binder of his history I read passing mentions about how all manner of folks had told him he couldn’t succeed, and yet he quietly persisted. And that was what all those people ended up – a footnote in a binder that doesn’t even mention their names.
As I sat in a small bar and grill writing an article about some of the people who are once again reinventing this town, I heard a few locals talking about how these men were messed up in their thinking, how they were on the wrong track, how they would never be able to make these new projects last – on and on it went.
I got thinking about the various books I had read about the locals that had pulled this town through hard times over these last few centuries. They have a few things in common with the people who are making things happen today. These are people who show up when things need doing. They are people who are not looking for personal gain or glory, they have the interest of their fellow citizens at heart. When told that others are appreciative of the things they do, they want to minimize their role and talk about still others who contribute.
This comes on the heels of having returned to Charleston to say goodbye to a lady who was dying of cancer and was a giant in that community. She died last week, but was lucid and able to communicate when I was there. Her primary concern while she was facing death? That good would come out of her passing for others. Regrettably I could not attend the memorial service this last weekend, but I am told it was a powerful event.
I am saying all of this because as I travel I see more and more that there are strong links between humility, tenacity and legacy. Those that accomplish things of lasting value seem to be primarily concerned about the welfare of their fellows. And those that are remembered fondly are those that have given of themselves, those that have been good stewards of the things that came into their lives.
So, as I sat in that tavern listening to the nay-sayers, I felt something I have never felt for them before. Always before I have wanted to speak up, to argue, to prove a point, to get them to see things differently. But this time I just looked on them with sympathy. I realized that they are on a trajectory that takes them completely out of the tides of history – a generation or two from now and it will be as though they never lived. And, in reality, by staking their identity on the failure of others they really are not living at all. And soon I had entirely forgotten them – I was once again pondering those that have contributed and those that are facing the community’s current troubles head-on.
It is one more demonstration of why it is so important that we force ourselves to live in solutions rather than living in problems, and one more reason that we should know that if we want to love God we first need to love our fellows – even the ones whose negativity is leading them into oblivion.
Today, may I know love.
Make it a great day !!