I saw a news report in last Sunday’s newspaper about a girl, a former national athlete who was eking out a living selling bag drink on the city streets of Kingston. Based on the news report, this former Olympic champion had once medaled for the nation, but had fallen “on her face”.
My first reaction to the report was sadness, but when I saw the conversation about the issue on Facebook the next day and read the comments of regret, surprise and even pity, I felt it was time to weigh in with a different perspective. I was moved to reflect on my own life and the difficult bumps on the journey of my life. I felt compassion for this young woman who it appears had been to the mountain and like many mountain experiences, had only a short stay.
So now, in one of her “valley” moments, her personal struggle is captured and plastered over the cover of a national newspaper by a roving cameraman. One moment I felt sorrow for her, but this was momentary. The next minute I saw her through different lens and I suddenly felt empathy and admiration for her.
Here she was, a girl who, by the Facebook comments, had been to university, but like so many Jamaican youth had not gained the white-collar employment her university education should have guaranteed. We don’t know what made her decide to choose vending, but for me, it must have taken courage and spunk to put her pride aside and do what she had to do. What an enterprising spirit, I thought. I saw in that front page image not a beggar or idler, but a woman with a spirit of humility, strength, resilience and an attitude of enterprise. As I posted in that comment, I saw what had made her a javelin champion. A true champion never knows what the outcome of the event will be, but he or she has to use mental agility and toughness to focus on the prize nevertheless. She knows that in her sport, athletes win some and lose some.
Some people have to go to the valley several times in their lives so that God can resuscitate them and help them find the resources and the life lessons they need to get them to the mountain top and stay there.
When life gives you lemons, you too can make lemonade. Too many men and some women too would just stretch a hand out, rather than go fishing. Nobody said life would be a rose garden. But with prayer and the right attitude, and if you persevere, God can take you to the top again. I like how Maya Angelou puts it in her poem, <em>Mother to Son</em>
Well, son, I’ll tell you: Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. It’s had tacks in it, And splinters, And boards torn up, And places with no carpet on the floor— Bare. But all the time I’se been a-climbin’ on, And reachin’ landin’s, And turnin’ corners, And sometimes goin’ in the dark Where there ain’t been no light. So, boy, don’t you turn back. Don’t you set down on the steps. ‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard. Don’t you fall now— For I’se still goin’, honey, I’se still climbin’, And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair
And that is the message I would like to pass on to her and any of my readers going through a similar struggle. Life never promised any of us a rose garden without thorns; Jesus didn’t get to Golgatha without carrying a cross. Likewise, we can’t expect to get to the mountaintop without clambering through some valleys. He said the race is not for the swift, but for those who endure to the end. Keep your eyes on the rose garden!
Have you sat on crystal chairs once or twice before in your life, and find yourself now in a bare place with no carpet on the floor. What lessons are there to be learned from these “valley experiences”?