Life Is Hard
A recent column by David Brooks 'The Life Reports' included this line: “Resilience is a major theme…I don't think we remind young people enough that life is hard." The purpose of the column was to report on the thousands of responses he has received to his request for readers over 70 to send him ''Life Reports' or little essays in which they evaluate their own lives. In reading them he discovered how many had difficult lives and one of his conclusions is the above quote. Our young people need to be reminded more than they are about the inevitable difficulties of life for which they may not be prepared. Scott Peck in his classic opening line from 'The Road Less Traveled' said simply ” “Life is difficult.” Is that a truth accepted by previous generations but overall a surprise to our children?
I had plans anyway to have coffee with two young friends (both in their late 20’s) but sent them the Brooks article and asked them to spend part of our time discussing it. What I heard was encouraging. “Yes” I think while I was certainly given more incentives and resources to achieve than some of my peers growing up ” there was also the understanding that these were not entitlements but investments. People (not just parents) investing in my life had expectations that I would not assume a life of privilege and entitlement. These were not endowments or a safety net or a way to avoid natural consequences and risk. They were opportunities.”
“I have no sense of living a charmed life but” so far I have not faced a terminal illness or divorce or a career being derailed. Still I don’t feel guilt about my life being interesting satisfying and challenging. I do feel gratitude but not with a sense of dread that it’s just a matter of time until my turn comes. I am not unaware of the difficult lives of others –even others my age who are unable to find jobs or satisfying work –and I know I am not immune. However ” I think their experiences have allowed me to develop a deeper empathy with them.”
One common experience? Both have parents and grandparents who have shared stories about difficult times in their lives in a way that difficulty is seen as normal and even interesting. These stories were not preached –they were simply recounted. They were not war stories about unusual hardships but conversations about life. Both young men remarked how important those stories were and how much they value the ways in which they became a part of their own lives and understanding of the world.
Scripture is right about this one. “Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father” and he will show you your elders and they will tell you.” This is how we learn.