A Reluctant – But Committed – Optimist

Nothing was working. He tried everything he knew to try, but
all to no avail. The harder he tried the worse things seemed to
get. And when others – well-intentioned no doubt, or at the least
oblivious to his troubles – tried to help or were (by circumstance or
chance) brought into his life they only made matters worse. He was
dealing with his "problem". It didn't matter what it was – not to us
anyway – it was for him, at that time, the "problem". He had faced
others, and he fully believed that, when this one was successfully
resolved, he would face others again. It was standing between him
and success – however one may define success. Even casual encounters
with others seemed to be, though seemingly innocent enough, nothing
but trouble. If he went to the left, as it turned out he should have
gone to the right; if he went to the right, left was the way he
should have chosen; if he said "true" – the answer seemed always to
have been "false". There seemed to be no winning for him.

He had considered quitting, but only briefly and as an
argument and not a realistic possibility. He saw no use in
quitting. Why, after all, was he fighting in the first place? To
lose? No – to win. Would quitting allow him to win? No. Indeed,
it would make him a worse loser than he would have been had he only
fought on and lost valiantly. A man who fights with his all – even
if he loses his all, and he may well – at least has the respect of
those who see him fight and lose it all. The man who quits not only
loses the battle before him, but also something far more important:
he loses his honor. Honor is not pride, mind you; it is much bigger
than pride. Pride is not at all bad – in modest amounts – but it is
not what moved him on to the fight. Pride is what one thinks of
himself and what he thinks others think of him; honor is what others
know to be true of him. He was a man of honor. Such do not quit.

He had often asked himself whether he was up to the fight,
but as he saw it, to ask was in itself to answer – he was. He must
have been. Those not up to the fight, those who do not care, or do
not have it in them, did not bother asking – they just quit. They
washed their hands of the whole matter and walked away from the
fight, usually before the fight got good and started. People like
that had no pride. They either didn't care, or didn't know, but
either way they were to be pitied – if not scorned. They had no
pride, but worse – they had no honor. They were not like he was, and
he was not like them. He knew that. He had a healthy measure of
pride – he cared first about the things he did and then, and only in
a secondary way, he cared about what others thought about him.
Keeping these things in order was extremely important to him. He
thought that same issue ought to be of concern to others also, but he
seldom found it to be so. This attitude kept him honest, and he was
sure that it would do the same for others also. A man who is more
concerned with doing the right thing in the right way and for the
right reasons and at the right time -- first and foremost – is his
own best censor. Such a man, he had always believed, would not be
likely to deceive or cheat or steal or, most importantly as it
concerned the business at hand, to quit. He would do his best and he
could do no more. Neither he nor anyone else would have the right to
expect more from him. This let him sleep when he put his head on his
pillow each evening.

He understood that the foolish and the deceivers and those
others like them would ridicule and criticize and try to bring him
down, but that didn't matter. He was not like them, and they were
only attacking him at their own weak points – not his. Oh, it is
true that there was, on that one occasion, when he was wearied and
worn, a close call. He almost succumbed to the assaults of those
about him – almost. He rebounded. He knew that misery loves
company, and he cared not at all to be company to the miserable. He
would not quit – not for them, not for him, not for anyone – no,
indeed. He might lose, he might even die trying to win, but he
wouldn't quit for them before and he had no intention of quitting
now. He might lose, he might even die trying to live, but that was
all right with him. Better a dead warrior than a living coward. He
knew that wasn't original with him, but he didn't remember where he
heard it – and besides, it was true.

His convictions were firmly in place. He had no doubt
whatsoever that his purpose was noble, and that this problem
warranted his devotion. He always thought things through in advance
of undertaking a project, and the project before him was no
exception. He was the right man for the right job in the right place
at the right time… But still, he wasn't making the progress he
expected to make. It was much harder than he anticipated. Indeed,
it was much harder than anything he had ever done. And he had done
some very difficult things before. Why was this one so difficult?
He thought perhaps that it was due to the accumulated weight of many
years of similar pursuits. Even so, wasn't there anything he could
do about it? He was almost desperate. He recognized the problem,
and he even had a plan of attack. That alone should be enough to
propel an honest man on to victory. It had always worked for him
before. Why wasn't it working now? Would it work? It wasn't

He wouldn't quit, though – he couldn't. He might lose, but
he would never quit. There was that one time when he almost quit.
Someone had caught him at a particularly weak moment and had uttered
some very hurtful words. That one almost did him in, and he still
had concern about it – grave concern. He seemed to think, back then,
that he had already lost the battle when he had but suffered a
setback. It is hard to know, sometimes, just where one stands in
life. When we survey the lives of great men from the past, we do so
with the benefit of hindsight – a great advantage. We can know what
obstacles stood behind the great men of yesterday at any given point
in their lives, and we can know what obstacles were yet before them,
as they made their decisions and put their plans into execution.
Looking back that is easy. We can even sometimes have the same
advantage, at least in part, when we look at the lives of those
around us. But seldom do we have that privilege for our own lives.
We cannot know where we are in life. People talk about a `middle-
aged' man – can they know that for sure? No, they are basing their
assessment of him on an `average'. People may collectively make
averages, but individuals cannot trust in averages – not to guarantee
them longevity or success.

What if the problem before him now is the last major obstacle
he will face? Wouldn't it be a shame if he gave up and quit with
only one more mountain to climb? He couldn't know for sure. He knew
that he was weary, and he knew that the opposition was great, and he
knew also that he had been weary before and the opposition had been
great before, and that he had always won anyway. He knew also that
the "problem" he was facing had the potential to be his last in
another way. He knew that it might be the one that brought him
down. It was possible. Despite the possibility, however, it wasn't
in him to quit over what `might be'. He had always kept trying, and
he was sure that he would keep fighting this time, too.

In time he would figure things out, overcome the obstacles,
and then, just as on numerous occasions before, he would look back
and laugh at his apprehensions as baseless. Victory would be his.
He would be honest, labor in earnest, do his best, and overcome. He
didn't know just how, but he knew that he had to do. He would. He
always had in the past, and he knew that he always would.

H. L. Gradowith


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