Perspective is crucial if there is any hope for optimism.
This is the gist of the message I heard former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice implore to my heart as I sat in a conference last week. So, my pal “Condi” (I mean, it seems like we could be friends so let me pretend, will ya?) is a powerful woman with sound credentials, years of civil service racked up and by most accounts, a worthy leader in our time.
She has conversations with world leaders (remind me to tell you the one about her convo with Vladimir Putin sometime); I have conversations with dogs and kids mostly during MY days.
What would she have to say that could drill into my soul a message so important to the journey of leaving memory lane?
First let me tell you the story of a teacup.
During World War II, my great grandmother Maria Madi, chose optimism. She was a physician, a radiologist to be specific. She was also an artist, starting the glass artisan legacy of our family.
For a woman in that era (of any era, to my mind), she was courageous, brilliant and clear-headed – a very “Condi-like” set of traits, I’d say. One day, while in Budapest, contemplating the grim circumstances of an uncertain future, she decided that not only would she work to help hide Jews from impending torture, persecution and perhaps death, she also decided to…
…bury the teacup.
She never left her home, the teacup stayed buried. She was determined to stay put. She didn’t think the war would ever escalate to the level that leaving would ever be warranted. Of course, at some point, she realized how wrong she was but by then it was too late to leave. So there she lived, unable to move out, and probably unsafe where she was.
If you were holding this teacup in your hand right now, you would realize immediately the brittle-thin nature of this bone china cup. It was made this way. Thin, delicate and not fit for burial in the soil. In fact, if you hold it up to the light, you can see light coming through the impossibly thin barrier. I can only imagine how she got to the place of deciding to bury this little, fragile momento. Her thought process must have been one of optimism – not impossibility. She knew that one day this turbulent, chaotic season would settle, and she could come back and dig up the cup and enjoy a cup of tea with it.
My mom tells me that her grandmother, Maria, told her there was only one time when she was ever really afraid. The German soldiers were invading her town, her home, her place of hiding Jews. And she was truly afraid. The soldier came close to her, too close, touched her, touched some of her things, turned around and left. Impossible.
I’d submit to you that she had a dazzlingly staunch and steadfast view of the future! And it has translated down through the generations into a story of true optimism.
So I want to conjure up this same optimism – it’s somewhere in my DNA, right?
As our family sorts through the past drawer by drawer, closet to closet and from Goodwill run to Goodwill run, I hope my optimistic statements turn into a reality someday, like Maria’s must have.
One of my mom’s best friends, Connie Seegmiller, said to me the other day simply, “Be excited about the new place your parents are headed, and they will be, too.” Do you think Maria Madi may have needed to hear this a day or two in her storm of life? Maybe.
I know for me it was like rain hitting a newly budding seed. The only way to move from Kenyon Court – to leave memory lane – and find a new and better normal is through optimism. What’s more, I can’t play a helpful role in digging up the teacup out of the soil after “war” unless I help point the way to a better spot, pray for a spirit of hopeful change, and look for it with dogged determination in as many moments as possible.
Now for some perspective. What a privilege it is that my mom has survived this terrible ordeal – and so indeed is the act of convincing her that better is just around the corner. We’ve already felt that certain things were unlikely. For instance, there were crucible moments when we were sure Barbara would not:
Eat enough to sustain life
Talk with a “voice” that seemed hers
As we help my parents walk this strange road, I know victory is possible.
Namely, it is possible for God to be glorified and for us to honor Richard and Barbara but the path is difficult – not easy,
long – not short,
arduous – not carefree.
Was Maria Madi’s teacup ever half empty? I doubt it.
As a continuing part of her message, my pal Condi, went on to say that it is a privilege to struggle, that victory is possible. That through perspective, things that seem impossible now seem inevitable to her because she never accepted the status quo.
The message from both my great grandmother and Ms. Rice are the same;
Courage, optimism and the perspective to help the two along.
And what a resilient teacup! Here’s a pic of the precious family relic: