My father spent four years fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific, and he had little patience for hearing complaints from his children in the years following. He never talked about war, but it was clear it profoundly changed his outlook on facing the challenges of life.
“Are you unhappy?” he would say. “You’re halfway. Turn around and get happy again.”
“You don’t have a problem. You have an opportunity. Now take that opportunity and fix it.”
That attitude seems long gone in our country. We don’t ever have opportunities; we always have problems. We are victims. Oh yes, we all are victims. No, wait. We aren’t just victims; we are victims.
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Blacks are victims. Women are victims. Hispanics are victims. Gays are victims. Old people are victims. The unborn are victims. Veterans are victims. The poor are victims. The unemployed are victims. The under-employed are victims. The undereducated are victims. Unruly children are victims. Drug users are victims. Urban dwellers are victims. Small farmers are victims. Tattooed people are victims. Drivers are victims. Bikers are victims. Walkers are victims.
We have become a society where great numbers of people take no responsibility for their own well-being. It is far easier to be a victim.
If you are a victim, you do not have to work to make your life better. You can complain and whine and demand that someone else change. You can stomp your foot or hold your protest sign and expect others to give you whatever you think you need to fix whatever is wrong. Poor you.
There are some who don’t see themselves that way. I work in several nonprofits that help people truly in need. There, I have seen remarkably resilient people accept help with gratitude. These people don’t expect or demand anything; rather, they see that good people are trying to find ways to help them climb out of bad situations. To help them climb out, not to pull them out.
Make a list of all the reasons you are a victim: Your height, your weight, your race, your address, your health, your birthplace, your education, your job, your car, your family. Then rip up that piece of paper and look in the mirror. The strongest influence in fixing problems in your life is you.
Dad would call that an opportunity.
Jane Shoemaker is a vertically challenged old person and recovering journalist. She lives in Mooresville.