The air was tense. There was an uneasy energy in the room. Two sides in the heat of battle…dead set on vanquishing each other. A bullet flies. Then another. A move is made to flank the opposition to gain an advantage. The enemy sees this maneuver and screams out in fear, alerting their comrades to the evil presence moving in for the kill.
But this is no ordinary battle. This is daughters vs. daddy. Two direct hits and you have to sit on the steps. And dead girls can’t talk (aka. give away daddy’s position amongst the couches, coffee tables, vacuum, and oversized kids’ chairs) or chase down bullets for the living.
I can proudly say that I took the Delaney Family Room Gun Fight in a close 2-1 decision this evening.
It was not without incident. My youngest wasn’t sharing bullets with her older teammate. And arguing ensued. Yelling. My oldest quit the game due to the hub-bub. Couches, chairs, and coffee tables went back (or close) to their original position. As soon as I moved them back, she came back down.
“Why is the game over??!!” she cried.
“Because you quit. And you were part of the game,” I replied.
“I quit because Maggie wasn’t sharing her bullets,” she retorted. “And I didn’t really quit, I just walked away from the game.”
“That’s quitting,” I said.
By now it’s getting on bedtime…and I thought it best to offer some fatherly lessons on each of them separately. After talking with Maggie about the virtues of being a good teammate and sharing, I called Katie down.
“You quit,” I said. “That’s why we stopped the battle. I don’t like quitters. Quitting is one of the worst things you can do about anything in life………………………….”
About a week ago, a colleague shared this article with me from The Atlantic. About the dire financial situation of (more than you’d think) middle class Americans. I happen to be in the business of preaching “financial wellness” right now to our clients, so I took particular interest. Essentially, it was about how almost half of Americans couldn’t afford to cover a $400 emergency if needed.
It jokingly referred to a Bruce Eric Kaplan New Yorker cartoon that was captioned: “We thought it was a rough patch, but it turned out to be our life.”
The writer of the article was using it to demonstrate the dire financial straits that folks are in. It has applications that go well beyond that.
When my better half and I were meeting with our priest before getting married, he referenced us being able to “struggle through life together.” We attended a wedding of distant cousins in 2011, and at the wedding, one of the readings was actually a letter from the bride’s grandmother to the grandfather. The long and short of it was…we didn’t realize how fun, awful, exhilarating, and exhausting our life would be together.
The struggle through life.
We have this assumption…this vision…this misguided belief that our adult lives with marriage, kids, friends, relatives, work….is the embodiment of the American dream. An idyllic world of candlelit dinners, kids getting along, endless promotions, financial bliss, no misperceptions of any kind.
The Atlantic article includes this:
My friend and local butcher, Brian, who is one of the only men I know who talks openly about his financial struggles, once told me, “If anyone says he’s sailing through, he’s lying.” That might not be entirely true, but then again, it might not be too far off.
My hunch is that you could replace “financial struggles” above with just about any real-life situation. In-laws, school, home ownership, neighbors, family,……we live in a world now where we want to broadcast our “best selves” on Facebook and other sites so everyone can see how great we are. How we’re not only keeping up with the Joneses…we’re running laps around them with how happy we are…how successful we and our children are…how many times we’ve done a workout with free range chickens (Rocky-style)…
Which brings us back to the gun battle from earlier tonight. Katie quit. And when I had a my little talk with her, I told her a story:
When I was growing up, my friends and I attended Keith Van Eron’s soccer camp almost every summer. Some were day camps, a few years we attended overnight camps. Now Keith Van Eron, apart from being the Major Indoor Soccer League’s 1986 Goalkeeper of the Year, was a legend of the Baltimore Blast…and won an MISL Championship in 1984. He WAS Baltimore soccer in the late 1980’s.
Keith Van Eron was a religious man (autographing every soccer ball with “John 3:16″…or was it “John 3:17?”…I was never one for memorizing Bible verses), and he advocated that every kid who attended his camp should learn a poem called Don’t Quit.
In fact, his promise to everyone was that if you learned the poem and came into his soccer store and recited it to him, he would give you a free autographed soccer ball (value ~ $0.57).
Being the dork I was…I was determined to memorize the poem and recite it to him. Apart from a few missteps, I did recite it to him in his store…and I have long since lost the autographed soccer ball he gave me.
So that was the story I told Katie about quitting. And how I learned a poem called Don’t Quit… and how I’ve tried ever since never to do so.
It also happens that one of her assignments this year is to memorize at least a 5-stanza poem and recite it during class by June 8. I asked her, “Would you want to learn Don’t Quit?”
She was mesmerized. “YES!” she exclaimed! She immediately wanted to write it down in her journal and start to learn it. So that’s what we did before bed. And of the 24 lines…we learned 12 tonight.
The tie in here is that, much like Eric Kaplan humored many years ago….sometimes a rough patch becomes your life. People want to quit on things all the time. You try to minimize the rough and focus on the good. And in a social media world, sometimes it can seem like everyone is doing exceedingly well in life….except you.
So here are some words of encouragement, courtesy of an unknown author, by way of Keith Van Eron…and two generations of Delaneys learning the poem:
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.