Hard Things

I have a daughter who likes to run road races.  Recently she ran in her second half-marathon.  This one came about six months after giving birth to her third child.

She and I have a pre-race tradition.  Just before the race she gives me a call and we talk for a couple of minutes.  I always tell her not to start off too fast.  She always tells me she won’t.  She always does.   After the race she calls and confesses.

It won’t surprise you to learn that I don’t really care if she starts too fast or not.   I’m just endlessly proud of my daughter.  She decided to do a hard thing—not because she had to, but because she wanted to.  She trained for it.  She wants the sense of accomplishment achievement brings.  She wants to set an example for her children.  She wants to share something pretty glorious with her husband.

My hat is off to her.  My hat is always off to the people who choose to do hard things.

The apparent goal of modern life is to never be required do anything hard.  I know people who measure success by how many afternoons they can spend with the curtains drawn in front of their video screen of choice, surrounded by canned drinks, pizza, and like-minded friends.

But many of you are made differently.  You chase hard goals because you know that going with the flow will only float you downhill.  We all wonder what we’re really made of, but not everyone wants the knowledge badly enough to find out.   Too many of us mistake the edges of our comfort zone for the limits of our endurance.

So today I offer my admiration to those who do hard things.  You know who I mean, all of you who:

Step up and say to your siblings, “okay, I’ll be the one to care for Mom now that she can’t handle the job herself.”

Who go back to school because you’re finally ready, and recognize education for the blessing it is.

Who get up and go running at 5 a.m.

Who tell your friends they’re dumb to mouth off in class.

Who go back to the doctor for a follow up exam, even though the news might not be good.

Who accept, love, and care for a developmentally disabled child for all the decades to come.

Who make friends with people who are vastly different.

Who accept an unpaid responsibility in the community or church which will require time away from home.

Who muster more cheerfulness than you’d expect from the day to day world of diapers and the drudgery of house work, as they quietly build the future.

Who can always be counted on for a plate of cookies, an extra hand to work the concession stand during half-time, and help backstage during the senior play.

Who persevere through pain.

Who freely choose to trust again in someone who was once untrustworthy.

Who must move money too often from the new car savings account to the back to school account.

Who reach out to help others once their own nest empties.

Who earn their living with their muscles, and end each day closer to exhaustion than they’re likely to admit.

Who work in a toxic office of negativity and backbiting, while somehow staying above the stench.

Who train online for a better future, but not until the children have been tucked into bed.

Who must recreate themselves with every move to a new city.

Fifty-five years ago President John F. Kennedy said “we choose to go to the moon in this decade…not because (it is) easy, but because (it is) hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one we are unwilling to postpone.”

When we do hard things we discover who we really are, not who we imagine ourselves to be in softer moments.  Our acts won’t measure up to putting a man on the moon, except perhaps to those we serve.  Or perhaps to ourselves, as we discover the outer limits of our strength, which are inevitably greater than we ever imagined.

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