“He knows not his own strength who hath not met adversity.”
– William Samuel Johnson
It’s a well-worn ritual for young people to roll their eyes as their elders lament how tough life was years ago.
Every grandparent has a story about walking to school in the snow (uphill, both ways) or living without some modern convenience. I remember my father telling me about his first job, delivering ice for “ice boxes” before the days of modern refrigeration.
Now, I catch myself telling my young daughter about daily challenges from my own childhood – life before the personal computer, the Internet, cell phones or the myriad of other indulgences she takes for granted.
My mother, though, had the most sobering stories, and she never complained.
Mom, a British citizen, was born in 1930, during the United Kingdom’s Great Depression. Both her parents died when she was young, and she grew up in London in the middle of WW II. The city was under heavy Nazi bombing, which killed more than one of her young friends. As air raid warnings blew and Nazi planes dropped bombs overhead, Mom frequently dove into muddy ditches on the way to school. To make money after school, she cleaned houses; food and clothes were rationed. During the war, no light could be visible from any home after sunset, so she spent her nights in the dark.
Mom finished her formal schooling in her mid teens, then worked in a factory for a year or so before joining the Royal Air Force. At 22, she married my father and had eight children – seven boys and one girl, over a 14 year period, all while moving around the world every two or three years. Dad focused his energy at work in the military. Mom raised all eight of us and still found time to volunteer at our schools and in the community.
My mother never smoked a day in her life but died of a lung disease at the age of 71. Throughout her life, my mother had great common sense and lived by the Golden Rule. She taught her children the importance of personal responsibility. She appreciated the simple things in life.
I think about Mom’s life whenever someone complains about a minor annoyance.
Her life still provides me with a sobering perspective.