Her delight was contagious. As I followed after Jenny, looking up at the rainbow myself, I saw the bold arch of colors as a reflection of her intrepid resilience and appreciation for all aspects of life – two qualities that made her into the bold little person she was.
I was pulled from my musing when I suddenly heard a splash, accompanied by the scene of Jenny sitting in the middle of an enormous puddle, covered in mud, tears brimming at the corners of her eyes. Just as she titled her head back, ready to start wailing, a crowd of old women gathered around her, prattling and jabbering about the poor little girl in the mud, and where was her mother who didn’t run to comfort her daughter. But instead of crying, Jenny’s eyes widened looking up at the old women, and started to giggle! My motherly instinct to rush over and sweep my muddy daughter up into my arms was immediately calmed by Jenny’s funny change of heart. Instead, I walked over to her and said “You CAN do it! Stand up slowly . . . and come to Mommy!” Encouraging her to get out of the mud herself, I knew she was learning a survival skill that would help her for the rest of her life.
The experience was uplifting. Those noisy crowd that was criticizing me for not rescuing my daughter, began to cheer on Jenny’s every move, until finally her little muddy arms were wrapped tightly around my legs. Now we were both soggy, but our spirits soared high. I’d like to think that small victory marked the beginning of my little girl’s journey towards becoming a strong, resilient woman.
The husband of a friend of mine was recently sent to jail, for who knows how long. As a mother of three, and still in school, my friend can barely afford to pay for her kids and the mortgage. She doesn’t want a divorce, even though the law might not allow her husband to live with his family once he gets out of jail. Her options are thin; her outcomes are limited. She has no one; worse yet, she is too proud to ask anyone for help. What would you do if you were in her shoes? Whatever your answer, it’s probably easier said than done.
I recently had a chance to communicate with my friend via e-mail. And much to my surprise and relief, I was inspired by her words: “I’ve thought a lot about the whole ‘survival mode’ for the past month or so. I know my situation appears frightening to others, but I am not afraid.”
The point is this. Survivors come in many forms: little girls, muddy runners, mothers of three, even me. I’m a survivor: of the communist labor camps in China right after high school; of an 18-year long marriage ending in divorce; of immigrating to a new country at age 40 with my three-year old daughter and just $10 in my pocket.
We have all survived something. The trick is: can we surpass survival, dwelling on the edge of life’s debts, and instead, collect the profits of living?