Porch Talk

a Southern Momma speaks


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Porch Talk – On Hold

My daughter and I are dealing long distance with the details of getting my house back in order.  Fortunately, an amazing friend is handling what needs to be done there.  The work on the house should begin in the next week or so and I hope to be able to get back to my normal routine.  I also hope that others affected by these floods are moving on, too.

 

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Will Power

Many of the people who know my home flooded and the subsequent disruption in my life praise my strength.  Actually, I owe any strength I have to several factors: first, when I bought my home. the flood plain map showed the property in the last area that could flood.  This meant I had to buy flood insurance.  Neighbors who had built their homes in the late ’80’s told me the neighborhood had never flooded, so the fact that it did came as a surprise.   Knowing that I had insurance that would pay for the restoration of my home reduced the stress of restoring it, a luxury thousands of people don’t have.

Another factor in my “strength” is that I grew up in, first the Great Depression, and then WWII.  Millions of people were out of jobs; homeless roamed the country, finding food and shelter where they could; and those families fortunate enough to have an employed member, as ours did,  counted their blessings, and shared what they could.  WWII brought rationing at home and anxiety about fathers, husbands, sons and brothers fighting in places formerly unheard of, but now the center of the universe for worried families.

Thus, for the first thirteen years of my life, I had the examples of the adults in my life to follow.   I saw them bear up when a loved one was killed, or wounded, or captured.  I saw that their faith kept them going, and also learned that these remarkable people felt it a solemn duty to show the young in their lives how to develop moral fortitude.

The nuns at Mt. Carmel convent taught us how to develop will power,  day by day.  “Will power is like a muscle,” we were told.  “If you don’t exercise it every day, it won’t be there when you need it.”   We started with small goals, like doing our homework without our parents telling us to.   We were encouraged to visit old relatives, bringing a breath of youth into their confined lives.   We  learned to use will power to keep from saying or doing something that would hurt a classmate.   And we found that the will power we developed was a huge asset when we got to college.  Tempted by the new diversions, we might have left papers to the last minute, gone to class without being prepared, or, worse still, not gone at all.

One example of how will power can achieve seemingly impossible goals is the experience two of my close friends and I had with our biology professor our first semester in college.  Dr.Clayton was something of a martinet, and his tests were considered some of the most challenging on campus.  This is because he gave five tests with ten  questions that required a one word answer,  and one fifty question final, again with one word answers. After each ten question test, Dr. Clayton would call out the names of those students who had answered all of them correctly; the students would then stand up and give the name of the high school from which they had graduated.

I’ve no idea if my friends and I would have turned in perfect papers for every test if we hadn’t learned that Dr. Clayton strongly disliked the Catholic church, and in particular, Catholic nuns.  Proud of our school, the three of us resolved to study as hard as we could so as to earn the right to give the name of our high school.  I can remember how we felt when each stood up and said “Mt. Carmel High, Lafayette.”

The first two times, Dr. Clayton said nothing.  But when we stood up the third time, and spoke the name of our high school, he relented.  “Well,” he said, “it seems those nuns do know how to teach.”   That was part of the reward will power earned.  The best part came when we went to Mt. Carmel and told our principal, Mother Dolores–still one of the most brilliant educators I have had the privilege to know–what we’d done.  “Girls, I’m proud of you,” she said.  “See what having will power can do?”

I feel sorry for anyone who grew up without having adults who were models of will power, nor training that helped develop the will power that gets us through life’s trials and tribulations.    Indulging children’s every wish and whim is the very worst thing parents can do, because there will come a time when these children will be in situations other people control, and where carrying out one’s responsibilities is expected.

Will power is not something one can create overnight.  And the longer it takes to begin building it, the harder the task will be.

Were it not for the many people who have shown their concern, my will power would not be enough to get me through this unexpected event.  But every time someone expresses concern, it is though that person has sent me some of his or her own strength, and that is making all the difference..