This morning a walking stick perched at my doorstep. The diapheromera femorata is quite common here. They like our house…as do the mantises that will soon come up out of the woods and hang on the siding in the sun. For some reason, these long, clunky twig-like insects do not instill in me the same disgust that spiders do.
For fear of treading on my phasmatid friend, I roused him from his mid-morning nap and managed to encourage him onto my hand. The problem was that the walking stick refused to let go once I had delivered him to the mulched promised land. In fact, I spent three minutes trying to dislodge the insect from my hand. It wasn’t biting me or hurting me. It wasn’t threatening me or saying nasty things about my mother. He just wouldn’t let go. Every time I managed to loosen five legs from my hand, one would still be attached.
I paused in awe. Despite the simplicity of the organism, the Creator gave it the sense and ability to cling, to hold on, to hang in. I wonder if we were created with the same ability to cling, to hold on, to hang in. We have been given a unique skill set for our own survival and for the survival of our community. Is perseverance an innate skill or a learned behavior? Can we teach determination? Or is determination inherited like brown eyes and brown hair?
I believe it is learned—but only through struggle and failure. Determination is easy when we win all the time. Perseverance is not required when success is guaranteed. Who works for what they’ve already attained?
I was talking with a beautiful 102-year-old member of the church today. She has become an expert in perseverance. These days she is asked if she has ever experienced anything like this before. She told me the only thing that comes close is the Great Depression. “But this is different,” she said, “We had each other in the Depression. We knew we were all in it together.” We then took a moment to discuss politics, but that’s a story for another day.
We had each other. It is one of the saddest statements I’ve heard in this season of COVID-19. We HAD each other—in the past tense. This casts doubt on whether we HAVE each other now—in the present tense. And worse, questions whether we WILL HAVE each other in the future. We had each other. We clung to each other. We held on and hung together. We had safety and security in each other. We trusted and entrusted one another.
We can and will again. This time, it feels more like a choice than a reflex, a conscious decision rather than silent assent. I hope you will choose wisely in the days and weeks and months ahead. I hope in generations, someone will interview you or your children and they will say, “We had each other.”
I love you.
I need you.
I hope for you.
Please be safe.