by Al Barkve
One of my “throwback” habits from growing up on a farm is to make sure I have something very physical (the more exhausting the better actually) to do when I have some anxiety about my job, or life situations.
Do you ever wonder why you are the way you are?
When I was a young teen, my older sister became ill. At the time, she was 16.
So, one morning when my parents were preparing to leave for U of M hospitals with my sister for a major heart surgery, my Dad announced as they got in the car for the long drive, “I want you guys to make sure the barns are all cleaned today, because if neighbors come over to help with chores, I want them to arrive to a clean barn!”
A HUGE job for the day.
I thought (but did not verbalize,) “What?! We are all saying our goodbyes, concerned about ever seeing our sister alive and healthy again – and my Dad is worried about the barns being clean?! Typical!”
But I must admit, the day passed rather quickly and we finished that evening and spoke on the phone with our sister who had arrived at the hospital and was in good care. The hard day of work, it actually helped me. My sister even taunted me on the phone, “I heard you cleaned barns all day!” Somehow, I knew that she was strong, and she was going to get through it all OK, and she did.
Today, I reflect and rationalize on my Dad’s motives after 45 years.
He probably didn’t want three able-bodied brothers “moping around” and wracked with worry. My Dad’s solution was to instruct us to stay very busy with a very long hard spring day of cleaning the barns.
Really, I don’t know if he actually gave it a lot of thought. (He definitely wasn’t a psychologist, oh no.)
Maybe he meant exactly what he said. He just wanted clean barns – that’s it!
So I was thinking about that, while shoveling loads and loads of dirt (not manure) into a wheelbarrow last Saturday, this memory and owning my possible inherent emotional shortcomings.
I know quite a few people like this, and I thought, “Why did God create so many people with such hard heads?”
In my attempt to better understand and “fill some of the gaps” between the brusque ways of my family and growing-up-situation - and today’s modern informed world, I went looking for some answers. I did some reading.
Lo and behold, there is a treasure of information published on the related topic generally referred to as “psychological resilience.” (I like that term better than “barn cleaning” anyway, so I’ll go with that.)
Here are some points to think about while we face our current C-19 adversities, and as we help others with very steep challenges in their lives.
I see examples of these every day from front line workers and some are making national news. If you come up with ideas based on these points, I would urge you to write down your ideas on a note card, and pray over your ideas daily:
Enacting Psychological Resilience when Adversity Strikes:
- Specifying – what aspects of my situation can I choose to directly influence to elicit change in the course of events? What can I do in the next few minutes, hours or day to make any improvement?
- Collaboration – who can help me? And what is the best way to engage those persons? How can I be a positive example? How can we find ways [together] to focus on something that can improve the outcome?
- Visualizing – what do I want my life to look like when we arrive at the other side of this adversity?
My apologies to real trained Psychologists for the above, and my thanks to contributing authors “On Mental Toughness” from Harvard Business Review, for their points on resilience.
One thing I do know.
God has created all of us with more resilience than we even know we have! I really believe that, and I see that in my family and in our Church community of St Michael’s.
Our ideas and actions, big or small, will make a difference.
I’m of course not saying I, or anyone else has an extraordinary amount of resilience. We know that we can’t just “tough it out” without God’s help or the help of others.
Resilient people, all people, need to get on their knees in prayer and humbly ask for guidance and help.
Prayer: Dear Lord, Our world is hurting and please help us use our gifts of resilience evident in the power of your grace. Help us to follow Jesus’ example on earth of humility, patience and tender peace, as we celebrate as Easter people.
Bio: Allen Barkve is a member of St Michael’s and has a fairly large number of farm stories, looking back fondly on his upbringing near Ada, MN.