Sometimes, in the morning with my first cup of coffee, I listen to the news on NPR. Sometimes. Most of the time I can’t take the unemotional voices telling me about the twelve or fifteen or thirty-four people who died in a car bombing while I was sleeping.
The anonymity of the numbers upsets me. Fifteen people went to the market and ended up dead. I want to know more: names and ages and why they were there, at that market, on that morning. Does that sound morbid? I just want connection. I want the fact of fifteen dead to have meaning. I can’t take in those numbers with my coffee and feel nothing.
This morning, I grit my teeth against the cold telling of faraway dead, until the station moves onto another story. A psychologist talks about Grit. Not the verb I used in the last sentence and not the noun used under my tires to make the ice less slippery. No, he is talking about Grit as in True Grit, not the movie, just the idea behind the movie. The idea of persistence and tenacity and working towards a goal despite numerous failures.
I can connect to this. He is talking about teaching grit to children, to help them become successful adults. I have a nephew who has that tendency to give up in the face of failure. But he has a mother who will not tolerate giving up. She says, over and over, “Try again.” And when he whines and pouts, she says “Every time you fail, you learn more about the game. And next time you might win.”
My boyfriend enters the kitchen and I give him the gist of the story. He says, “Grit! Louis L’Amour! Men getting up to fight again with four or five bullet holes in them! Women on the prairie popping out six kids, burying half of them while planting crops and building shelters! That’s Grit!”
I drink a second cup of coffee. My brain absorbs the caffeine and buzzes along, making connections.
I want to connect the story of grit to the story of the fifteen dead. I want to see how those people showed grit like my nephew shows grit when he tries again and again, for days, slowly working through the levels of a game. Because the lesson is the same, isn’t it? (My caffeinated brain says so.)
We all live within our own reality. My nephew’s reality is a challenging video game. The reality for those fifteen people was the potential of car bombings on market day. The pioneer’s reality was childbirth in covered wagons and threat of starvation if a crop failed. But regardless of the disparate realities, the successful show the same determination to keep on trying, gritting their teeth though repeated failure.
That’s the connection I want with those fifteen people. I want to know that they knew going to the market was a risk, but they took it anyway because the alternative was to give up. To give in to fear. They went because they would not give up their right to go to that market, on that day. I want to know that tomorrow, their loved ones will live and shop and eat because they refuse to give up. I want to know that if my nephew were there, living that reality, he would also refuse to give up. Because all of that I can understand.
That’s the connection I want, and seldom receive, from the morning news. So, mostly, I leave the radio off.