Published in the Rains County Leader on December 6, 2016:
Perhaps it’s because of my limits as a writer, or perhaps it’s the ripe old age I have reached, but I seem to begin a lot of my recent articles with some version of the phrase “When I was growing up…” Regardless of the reason, I’m using that phrase again today.
When I was growing up, we were taught not only to be gracious winners but also to be good losers. In today’s society, instead of teaching our children how to win or lose with equal grace, we have shielded them completely from the experience of losing. In the name of building self-esteem, we allow our children and grandchildren to beat us in Chutes and Ladders or Candyland, and we enroll them in sports leagues where everyone receives a trophy or where they don’t even keep score. We pass students from one grade to the next, even when they cannot do the work, and I understand that there are some schools where there are no grades at all.
I recently heard a father discussing the fact that winning and losing had become a real issue at his house. It seems that his pre-school child does not like to lose – I mean she really does not like to lose – crying, screaming, throwing a tantrum does not like to lose. He said it had become such an issue, even at school, that he and his wife had been playing games with her at home and making sure she lost, even if it meant cheating, in an attempt to teach her to be a good loser. Their methods may sound extreme, but the results of doing nothing can be extreme, too.
David and I saw a news story a couple of years ago in which a group of young adults were discussing life since their recent graduation and/or entry into the job market. They told of the shock of entering college where the professors didn’t care if their feelings were hurt – if the work was not done to his standards, the student failed the course. It was even more shocking to discover that employers actually expected their employees to earn their salaries. They also learned that those salaries didn’t start in the six-figure range, and that most entry-level positions did not include a corner office and a title.
Last month, like most of America, I watched news stories about mobs rioting in the streets and students walking out of class in protest of the election results. I couldn’t help but wonder if some of the participants were like the students in that news program – if they had been totally sheltered from the realities of a life that includes loss as well as trophies.
The riots and protests seem to have quieted, but social media is still filled with demands for recounts and other strange actions that would require at least a constitutional amendment if not a complete re-write. I admire someone who believes in a cause and devotes a lot of time and effort to achieving the results they believe to be right. However, it’s difficult to take many of the posts seriously when they are followed almost immediately with a video of a cute kitten.
There are others who are calmer in their rhetoric, but no less dramatic. These writers speak of deep grief and mourning for the future that might have been. One dear friend talked of approaching the Advent season without being able to feel it.
I try to be understanding and empathetic, but during my lifetime, there have been seventeen presidential elections. In each one of those, slightly less than half the populations lost. Life is better in some ways, and it is worse in some ways, but it has continued.
Sunday morning Pastor Jason preached from Luke 1 about the Annunciation. The Angel Gabriel came to a poor teenage girl in Nazareth, a village with a reputation that said “can anything good come from Nazareth.” She didn’t have a lot going for her, but she was engaged which meant she wouldn’t suffer the shame of being an old maid. Then, she was told that she would have a baby, that He would be the Son of God, and that He would save the people from their sins. That sounded like a winning proposition, but who was going to believe her story. At best, her fiancé would put her away privately. At worst, he would drag her in front of the ruling counsel, and she would be stoned to death.
She could have protested, complained, grieved, and become depressed. Instead, she said, “Let it be to me according to your word.” Then, she went to share the good news with her cousin, and while she was there, she sang a song. This is the first verse:
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
May the hope, peace, joy, and love of Advent be yours, regardless of whether your candidate won or lost.
A LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos