Over the past few weeks I have been looking at the elements that help to build resilience in life: community, legacy, spirituality, and gratitude. The final factor in building a strong, resilient life is service. If you want to build a happy, healthy life, you need to get out of yourself and into the lives of others.
Over the last three decades I have had an opportunity to get to know many resilient women. Some I have known very closely. Some I have only met or learned about through their memoirs. When I consider their example, service to others is a constant theme. All of them came from fairly ordinary, even humble backgrounds. But within their own contexts, they all found ways to love and serve others.
For example, right until her death Elizabeth was a dedicated volunteer in both church and community, sharing generously of her wisdom and mentoring many women like myself; Shirley cared lovingly for her grandchildren, who included I am happy to say my own four children who were not part of her biological family; Rena worked tirelessly to help our Indigenous relations and also made her voice heard in the cause of Amnesty International; Anna refused to let her community forget the horrors of the Holocaust and in her service as mayor kept the cause of peace and environmental justice front and centre; and Jean (Augustine) worked and continues to work tirelessly to end systemic racism and injustice in our society. She also played a key role in establishing February as Black History Month in Canada.
In an address that the famous missionary doctor Albert Schweitzer once gave to a class of students graduating from university, he said: “The only ones of you who will be truly happy in life are those of you who seek and find a way to serve.” He might have said: “The only ones of you who will be truly resilient in life are those of you who seek and find a way to serve.”
So community, legacy, spirituality, gratitude, and service – five practices that are the hallmark of a strong, healthy, resilient life. These are all practices that everyone of us can learn. To quote Catherine DeVrye, “like tiny seeds with potent power, we can push through tough ground and become mighty trees, for we hold innate reserves of unimaginable strength. We are resilient.”
Before I close today, I want to let you know that this will be my last blog for a while. On May 1st, I begin a three-month sabbatical followed by a month of holidays in August. This will be a time of learning and discernment as I pursue studies in pastoral leadership and theology at Martin Luther University College in Waterloo, as well as a time for much needed rest and renewal. I wish you all a safe, relaxing and enjoyable spring and summer and look forward to seeing you again in September. Making time for rest is also key to building personal resilience so I hope you will build some rest into your life into the coming months too!