Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time
we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
In the elementary school where I work, we are strong believers in teaching our students to possess positive character traits. Our classroom walls and bulletin boards are adorned with words like Perseverance, Grit, and Commitment. The kiddos learn actions to represent these words, and win awards for displaying these qualities. To put it simply, we don’t want our kids to learn to quit.
But somewhere along the way — maybe in adolescence or young adulthood– quitting has become easier than seeing something through. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the divorce statistics, declining church attendance, or job turnover rate. For some reason, it has become acceptable to quit.
When my daughter was 13, she got her very first summer job. She was going to spend 2-3 weeks walking through a muddy, bug and snake infested cornfield, pulling tassels in the sweltering July heat and humidity. After her first day she begged me to let her quit. She told me that she was barely tall enough to reach above the stalks and swore she was the slowest one walking through the rows. She had been stung by bees, cut by the corn leaves, and had even thrown up….twice.
My answer was no. I am positive she hated me for the next few days, but my daughter finished the detasseling season, happily collected her paycheck, and signed up to do it again the next 3 summers.
But what if my answer had been to quit? What would have she learned? That it is all right to break a promise you have made with an employer? That when you have a bad experience at work, it’s OK to abandon that job? What message would have she carried into adulthood?
After my son’s car accident, he returned home from the rehabilitation hospital just in time to start his senior year of high school. The night before classes were to start, he told me he was going to have to quit band. He explained that there was no possible way he would be able to wheel his chair and carry his baritone through a parade route, and marching was obviously out since his legs no longer worked. And then he told me that he wouldn’t be able to compete in contest band because the tuba would be even more difficult to handle from a wheelchair.
Again, my answer was no. After seven years in band, I couldn’t imagine him not participating in this activity his last year of high school. During marching band season, he was allowed to wheel beside the band, without an instrument, and help keep the rows in line and in step. At contest, he played in a duet and an ensemble, and learned to wheel around with the tuba on his lap.
And if my answer would have been to quit? What would have been the lesson? That when you are disabled, you have to stop doing certain things? That when something is hard, you should give up? How many other things would he have been willing to give up?
Every day for the past 27 months I have prayed a special prayer. I have asked God to take my son’s paralysis away. I tell Him that I’m not particular on the specifics. It could be a scientific breakthrough, or something a researcher discovers looking through her notes, or maybe just an honest to goodness miracle. I have not seen my prayer answered yet, but I refuse to give up on it. The Bible tells us to be constant in prayer. Messages of persistence can be found in the books of Luke, Romans, Thessalonians and more. Who would I be to disobey God? If he doesn’t want me to stop praying, I would be a fool to quit.
The summer after my son graduated high school, a local newspaper office contacted him. A reporter wanted to interview him so that she could write a story about his life since the car accident. He received a phone call from the reporter on a day that I was out of the house, so I didn’t know what she had asked, or how he had responded to her questions. The following Wednesday, the newspaper was delivered and the article was inside. The headline read “Don’t Ever Give Up.”
So, to all of the teachers that are getting ready to show their students a video on grit, or searching for books on perseverance to read to their class…..THANK YOU! Teaching today’s children the importance of not quitting is a valuable lesson. And maybe someday, you’ll see the proof that your lesson stuck with them.