We Did Survive

Gloria Gaynor hit the record charts in the late ’70s with a song titled “I Will Survive” that eventually became a featured song in one of my favorite movies, “The Replacements,” starring Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman. The song’s lyrics told a woman’s story of being frightened but overcoming her fears by convincing herself that she would survive what was causing the anxiety.

There are many things that cause fear and trepidation during our lives, as children, teens, young adults, 20 and 30 somethings, middle agers, and golden agers, and because we’re still here, we can say that we did survive some situations that caused nervousness and fear during all phases of our lives.

One difference today is that we appear to be more nervous, more fearful of our surroundings, and in many situations that might be a good thing. Shakespeare once wrote that “discretion is the better part of valor.” Definitions of discretion include, “The quality of having or showing discernment or good judgment; the ability to make good decisions; the power or right to decide or act according to one’s own judgment.”

There are many possibilities of things that can happen today, some of them made possible by advancements in technology. When we (those in my generation and generations before mine) were growing up and even grown up before now, no one heard of identity theft, or cyberbullying. The number of fatal or severely violent crimes were also far less in my younger days, and we’ve all seen changes in the world which have resulted in horrible terrorist attacks and cruel and brutal crimes committed against mankind. It’s important that we be aware of these situations, be cognizant of what’s happening, and be somewhat fearful and cautious as we go through daily routines. The important thing is that we not let the fear and caution run our lives, because the goal of those who commit these crimes is to end life, and if we stop doing what we do in this life, isn’t that ending living as well? So be fearful, and cautious, but don’t stop your life.

There are some other things in this life that cause concern and situations warranting caution, yet much smaller in comparison to the criminal situations discussed earlier, and those things where we may have become increasingly over cautious through the years. There are situations today which we treat with kid gloves more than was done a couple generations ago, but doing some of those things anyway, even while slightly fearing them, kind of helped us overcome that nervousness and fear, maybe allowing those doing them to gain a little more confidence to move forward and hopefully walk up to the next situation and feel maybe less fearful and/or nervous.

I’d never tell any person how to raise their children, or families. I’ve had enough trouble trying to raise mine. (And that is because of me, definitely not them.) I may not agree with how some raise theirs, but that doesn’t make me right, or my ways better. Sometimes we need to just use our own common sense and gut feelings and hope it works more than it doesn’t work.

Again, I’m talking about much smaller things than being aware and cautious of violent crimes, drug abuse, terrorism, or anything severe in nature like those situations, I’m talking about giving kids and ourselves chances to fail, to get some scrapes and scratches, to experience thrills accompanied by nervousness, or encouraging them to still do something even when they don’t feel quite right, because they’d miss out or get behind by not doing it, or miss out on information or opportunities because they weren’t there to get that information and ultimately lose out on the experience entirely. Many from my generation were raised that way, and we did survive.

We drank from outdoor spigots and hoses, rode bikes without helmets, didn’t use hand sanitizer. We did survive. We rode in the back of pickup trucks. We did it safely, by sitting down backs against the cab or the sidewalls of the box, never sitting against the gate, or sitting on top of the walls. We did survive. We picked fruit from trees and ate it without washing it. We did survive, maybe with an occasional stomach ache, but we did survive. We climbed trees, sometimes resulting in cuts or scrapes (thank God for Mercurochrome, gauze, and adhesive tape), or an occasional broken bone (I personally have never broken a bone in my life, I’ve been in the hospital only twice in my life, at 14 with pneumonia, and at 60 and had heart stents implanted), point being I got scrapes, some friends broke fingers, wrists, even arms, but we did survive. We played organized tackle football with equipment and sandlot tackle football without equipment, and there were injuries, some even being broken bones, but we did survive. We went to school with small issues like sniffles, sore throats, or headaches, certainly not with fevers, rashes, pink-eye, or the childhood diseases (measles, mumps, chicken pox, etc.), but we did go to school feeling less than 100 percent sometimes. We did survive. We didn’t get flu shots. We did survive. And we went down into the sewer to retrieve baseballs and we did survive.

Times are different now. Research and medical study have given us more to think about and have given suggestions to make situations safer, and designed equipment to help avoid injuries and make the activity safer, but even with those suggestions and that equipment, injuries are still possible. Taking away the activity because we’re afraid of injury allows the fear to dictate what we do in our lives.

Injuries and illness happen everywhere. They don’t just happen in the back of a pickup truck, or from drinking out of an outdoor hose, or from falling out of a tree, or eating a green apple from a tree on your way to wherever you are walking, or climbing down a sewer. Injuries can occur walking down your front steps. Do you stop going in and out of your house? They can happen when a glass breaks in your kitchen. Do you stop drinking from glasses, or get rid of glass glasses and resign your drinking to be out of plastic/paper cups? Kids can get colds, flu and other diseases from other kids at any time, so is removing them from any contact with other children the way to make sure they won’t get sick? Isn’t it possible that they might develop the ailment in the safety of their own homes, without being exposed to it from others?

I understand the need and want to protect our kids, but we can’t build sterile walls around them or have them walk down the street, or let them play games wearing overly padded Haz-Mat suits, or boil their water before they drink it, or never let them get to see a view from a tree branch. Yes, we need to teach our children to be cautious, and preach using common sense and safety in everything we, and they, do, and it is our responsibility to inform our kids about violence, terrorism, and being cautious of situations in our communities and in the world, and we need to emphatically discuss the dangers of drug use and abuse. All this being said, we also need to let our children breathe, and experience activities in their lives, some which may bring injury or illness (hopefully not severe), but we can’t let the fear of those happenings to take them away from our kids. We can’t let the fear rule our/their lives. Give your kids parameters but don’t lock them out of living life. We did survive. They will survive too.