Reading Grapes of Wrath with my American Lit class this week has me thinking about all sorts of hardships that people meet, and how they cope with them.
I'm sure most people are familiar with the novel, which follows the Joad family as they migrate west to find work during the Great Depression. I find this book stunning and compelling, and it brings me a greater understanding and awareness about my grandparents' generation.
The novel makes me stop and think about difficult times. Do we have them if all of our basic needs are met? Can times be said to be difficult without the absence of food, shelter, and work?
I think so. I think difficulty is a great part of life. I mean great in that difficulty makes up a large part of our lives, but also in that I think difficulty is what helps us appreciate our lives and inspires us to make more of them.
I'm not drawing a direct comparison, but I did think today of when Brendan and I moved west. We weren't moving here with just hopes, as we had already been offered work, but it still felt strange leaving behind everything we had known to go to a strange place. Those first few weeks here weren't easy. Even with the support system that comes with a great relationship, we still face difficulties, both together and as individuals. I think we have to embrace that truth in order to feel any kind of satisfaction in life. Yes, it will be hard sometimes, and we will be better and more empathetic people for having gone through those times.
It was strange, but after reflecting on this this afternoon, I saw a link come up on my Facebook page. It was about a family that lost everything in the floods that hit Austin, TX on Thursday. Strangely enough, my mom's home had some damage too, but only to my childhood bedroom, which is now getting a new floor. I followed this link and read about this family that had lost everything. Brendan and I donated what we could, and I was reminded that difficult times are in the lives of everyone around us. The only way to combat this is to care. Just like in Grapes of Wrath, our care for one another is truly what makes us human beings. When you see suffering, help if you are able, and outside of that, remember to be gentle with the people you encounter, even strangers. You never know who is facing a difficult time, and your kind words, generous spirit, or offers of help might mean the difference between hope and despair.
I've been spending a quiet Saturday at home with Brendan, catching up on work, and giving thanks for having what I need and for the opportunity to reach out and help someone else. Even though I don't "know" them, I know them because we're all in this together.
That's a nice thought, right?
<3 S, B, L&Z