Tonight, while I was supposed to be doing something else, I gave in to the spirit of procrastination and watched The Great Debaters movie for the first time. I know I’m a few years late! I love Denzel (isn’t he handsome!) and Forrest Whitaker (he can certainly play a part!), but what drew me into the movie was a perspective that I came to at the end of it: life is about fighting for what is yours!
I’m not sure if it’s ever been put to me in those exact terms although I am sure I’ve heard it before. It simply, most likely, sounded like this:
1) You’ll win if you don’t quit!
3) The race is not given to the swift, nor to the strong, but to he who keeps going.
I heard the first one from TD Jakes, the second one from some person or source that I can’t recall, and the last one, a scripture, undoubtedly came during a personal encouragement session proffered by Uncle Frank. However, I think I’m just finally starting to get it (I’ve been told that I can be a bit slow which is why I collect turtles).
I really must fight to have the things I want, the life I want, the happiness I want, the “whatever” it is I want. But the key isn’t the fight! Rather, it is the absolute certainty about what it is you want. Once you really figure out what you want, you have something to fight over, to fight for.
Think about it: even if you are heavily invested, it is still easy to walk away from something you don’t really want. Have you ever been dating someone, or even in a relationship, and the person does something to offend you and you just end it? Just like that, you cut it, and him, off. I’m willing to bet that you were waiting for some reason to go, that you were grateful for the ability to blame “quitting him” on him. The lack of true and abiding passion and desire for a thing is what tempts you when you come across an exit sign or get a glimpse of greener grass whether that greener grass is a new lover, new job, or something else.
Once you figure out what you really want, your fight is born. Life is rife with opportunity to start new things, and it is also filled with opportunities to quit things. However, once you figure out what you want, you can set your path and priorities. You know just what to take off your plate, and you begin working mighty hard to get the right stuff on your plate! Once you know what you want, you petition God a bit differently. You seek direction on “how to” rather than “whether to”. Once you know what you want, you have a dog in the fight because you’re trying to get what you believe is yours.
Believe it or not, you’ll even take some flack over your conviction…oftentimes, a lot of flack. In this movie, one of the main characters, Mr. Tolson (played by Denzel Washington) was pushing to organize (unionize) farmers. He was arrested (perhaps many times) and ostracized as his organization grew to over 30,000 members. Now, I must say that I am not excited about farming work or share-cropping. It is possible that Mr. Tolson wasn’t either. He was likely compelled, not by the labor of the farmers, but by the economic injustice being imposed upon them. Whatever his rationale or passion, once it had seared a place in his heart, he persevered. He kept going back despite being called a communist, being asked to resign his position, and being blacklisted professionally-speaking.
Before I return to the work that I was supposed to do when I started watching the movie, I have one final point: there is a difference between endurance and perseverance. When you are in a thing because it is a means to an end, you endure. Indeed, you can do many things because you have to. How many people do you know who have jobs they hate, but stay because they are mired in debt, status, and other trappings? How many people do you know who maintain family obligations, not because they enjoy them, but because they are bound by duty? They may maintain their charge, but they certainly aren’t in love with it. Even if they quit the thing, they don’t miss it. They may miss the routine of it, the busyness of it, but not it. Even so, there is no shame in endurance, and more people need the discipline of it. Indeed, there is nobility in endurance; however, there is fire in perseverance!
You endure when you refuse to cave during the attack, but you persevere when you start the fight, that uphill fight! Go fight something! Go persevere! ….and I’m going to do the same!