Friday, December 19, 2008
Pluck: a wheelchair in the slush
This past week has brought a lot of snow and cold weather to Seattle. The main downtown streets are empty of the usual cars and pedestrians. But our TisBest office is on the edge of downtown and near some of the shelters and so it is a different scene entirely. As I drove home on Friday through the dark slushy streets of Pioneer Square I had to slow down for a while because the traffic lane was occupied by a man in a wheelchair, doing his best to move along with the use of two arms and one leg. As I crept along behind I realized what was going on - the sidewalks were covered in ice and although the street had 5" of dirty slush, the street was better than the ice for a wheelchair. I don't know where this man came from or where he was going, but he was getting along, taking care of himself and doing what was necessary under adverse conditions. Last night I finished reading The Sea Wolf by Jack London - a story about Humphrey Van Weyden, a physically unfit intellectual coming to terms with the demanding physical conditions of the arctic ocean and then extricating himself from it. This morning I read in the news about Yann Elies, a singlehanded sailor who is in the Southern Ocean right now with a broken femur, waiting for rescue which is 5 days away and struggling to move 6' across his boat so as to access his store of morphine. And as I walked around in the business district last week I saw that people were staying home because it was cold and there was snow on the ground. I applaud the man in the wheelchair, Humphry and Yann. And I applaud everyone else who is out there making a go of it in the world, not looking for a bailout and offering a hand to others where they can. The word for this is 'pluck.' Pluck: the trait of showing courage and determination in spite of possible loss or injury. America and Americans used to have a lot of pluck. If America is going to be great again, each of us and all of us need to find our pluck. Charity is a very good thing, but the beneficiaries of charity must also, truly and honestly and with integrity, try help themselves with all of the pluck they can gather.