We are reading in newspapers, watching on television, listening on radio and consuming on social media the wall-to-wall coverage of the extraordinary challenges facing individuals, communities, states and our entire country in relation to the coronavirus. Many people have wondered how the inhabitants of America will ever recover.
Gen. George Patton said, “The test of success is not what you do when you are on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” The people of America are in for a big test of their bounce-ability.
The ability to bounce back, keep things in perspective and then begin to climb or build again is a vital characteristic of those who ultimately achieve success. That bounce-ability has been part of the American experience from the beginning.
In contrast to our country’s stunning victories, breakthroughs, innovations and achievements, America and its people have endured epic failures, losses, dark days and heart-wrenching defeats.
In addition to natural disasters, America has had many moments where it would have been easy to just cower in the corner or completely give up. Early battles of the Revolution, the initial days and weeks of the Constitutional Convention, Abraham Lincoln’s political career and personal life, Pearl Harbor, stock market crashes, space shuttle disasters and 9/11 are just a few of the countless moments when America plummeted to very low points. The resilience of our country and its citizens is part of our history. Resilient mettle tested in such trials combined with bounce-ability forms an alloy that Martin Luther King Jr. described as the “content of our character.”
Craig D. Lounsbrough said, “To fall down is to face the weakness of my humanity, test the mettle of my character and push the limits of my strength. Therefore, falling down will tell me who I am far more clearly than most things I might learn when I’m standing up.”
It has also been said that a man is not honest just because he has not been presented the opportunity to lie. A nation is not strong just because it hasn’t been knocked down to its knees. Mettle is tested in the heat of the furnace. The character of a country is forged in the fire of affliction.
There’s a story about a sign hanging from a rusty nail on the front porch of an old farmhouse that said much about the bounce-ability, persistence and resilience of the farmer who had lived there for 75 years. The sign read: “Burned out by drought, drowned out by flood, ate out by jackrabbits, sold out by sheriff — STILL HERE!” That is the kind of mettle and bounce-ability America currently needs from every citizen.
I have watched in amazement how Olympic athletes have responded to the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games. I can’t imagine the countless hours of physical and mental training, over many years, these athletes have endured just for chance at an Olympic moment.
Then on the cusp of the competition, athletes were informed this week that they would have to train another year for an opportunity to compete on the Olympic stage.
Mettle-tested, bounce-ability-proven through overcoming injury, setbacks and countless defeats, athletes from around the world have shown not only courage, resolve and understanding, but also an amazing abundance of grace.
Everyone has or will face adversity, challenges or obstacles. The determining factor for our success in the coming years will be, what will we do when the adversity comes and we hit bottom?
Individually or as a nation, critical question will be presented almost daily. Will we persist or panic? Will we murmur or ponder? Will we look for reasons to push forward or will we find excuses to quit and give up? Will we join in the group-griping and pity parties in crying about how unfair it is, or will we explore the numerous opportunities that are before of us?
Sometimes success comes from simply showing up day after day after day. We often run out of energy and bounce long before we run out of opportunity. I am convinced that will be part of the test of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020.
Frustration, failure and setbacks can seem so devastating. But not to those who understand the strength of tested mettle and the power of their bounce-ability.
When you begin to see every challenge or difficulty as an opportunity to show your mettle, test your mental toughness and prove your potential, you will be presented opportunities to bounce higher, serve more and make difference for many.
America’s test, and ours, will be found in what we do three weeks, three months and three years from now.
In the coming days, America’s mettle and bounce-ability will be on full display. Our people have already shown an incredible willingness to help each other in the midst of the crisis. Countless stories of heroic kindness and neighbor helping neighbor are being reported. The American people have also opened their hearts and their wallets to assist in the early response to the physical and economic destruction the coronavirus has unleashed.
America’s test, and ours, will be found in what we do three weeks, three months and three years from now. The bounce-ability and true mettle of the nation are always displayed by what we do over the long haul.
Perspective, resilience, resolve and vision — all of these help strengthen our mettle and improve our bounce-ability as individuals and communities. I am convinced America will prove Gen. Patton right: “The test of success is not what you do when you are on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.”
With American bounce-ability, this nation will not only rise from the bottom of this pandemic but will once again soar.
Portions of this column were first published in the Deseret News, Sept. 5, 2017.