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Life's obstacles, challenges are what shape us

Oct. 18, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

"Constant dripping hollow out a stone." Lucretius

My family and I have traveled to numerous places in which the main attraction is water. From Blackwater Falls in Davis, W.Va., to Brush Creek meandering through Adams County, Ohio; from Bonny Bay in Dryden, Ontario, to the Northumberland Strait of Prince Edward Island; from the Mississippi River in New Orleans, La,. to the Atlantic Ocean while visiting the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Water, it seems, is important to me and my family.

Given that water covers over 70 percent of the Earth, perhaps it comes down to the fact that when traveling, the odds are likely we will end up near a body of water anyway. Still, it could be that we appreciate the fact that water is vital to life. After all, I would wager that most species in any given ecosystem depend upon water. Then again, it is possible we are attracted to water simply because there are countless geographically beautiful features that water seems to create, cut or carve. It is this last point on which I think there is a lesson.

Water, by itself, has little erosive power except when combined with friable material such as sand, earth and gravel. Combined with such resources, water has the ability to abrade even the hardest, most resistant rock. Therefore, water often etches valleys, canyons, gorges, waterfalls and even u-shaped rock arches. Sometimes, it is a protracted dripping of water that creates interesting forms such as stalactites and stalagmites inside caves. Other times, it is frozen water drifting unhurriedly over land to create deep land depressions such as the Great Lakes. Even flowing rivers have the ability to engrave land into deep chasms such as the Grand Canyon. The most important point of these examples is that water, combined with an abrasive ingredient, remains persistent, unrelenting and determined, no matter the amount of resistance. Isn't that life?

Talk to any person who believes they have attained a level of "success," and they will most likely describe their "constant drippings" against obstacles seemingly as tough as stone. Perhaps, their "drippings" were numerous years of college, followed by even longer years of working to "make a name." Others might describe starting on the bottom rung of a company and the years it took to "work their way up." Still others may describe a meandering stream of career hopping, switching from one position to the next, living paycheck to paycheck, until finally discovering their true calling and a steady source of income. The point is, like water, each person had to combine their energy with a supply of abrasiveness to fashion their own unique destiny.

Yet, this saying can be applied to various times in life, not just successful career paths. For example, this is an excellent way to frame personal exercise endeavors. I have frequently shared with you, Dear Reader, that I was never considered an "athlete" during my school years. Yet, through my own personal "drippings," I was able to train for and complete in my first marathon last year at age 46. It took two years, beginning with struggling to run one mile without stopping. Talk about drippings! I literally and figuratively sweated through 24 months of self-doubt, uncertainty and endless obstacles. Even the marathon itself was filled with numerous moments of resistance; however, as I limped across that finish line I knew I had forever hollowed out a milestone.

Working with middle school students, as well as having a daughter of middle school age, I frequently hear complaints and whimperings, such as, "This is too hard." "I can't do this."

However, what my daughter and middle school students often don't realize is that it is frequently the role of adults, especially parents, teachers, coaches and so forth, to provide the "abrasiveness" that when combined with students' "constant drippings," allow these kids to achieve, learn and grow to levels they did not otherwise believe.

These perceived negative experiences make way for such comments as, "I can't believe I wrote a paper that long!" "I would have never believed I could have read a book like that if we had not been required to read it in class." "I didn't know I could do that!" Drippings, constant drippings over rocky, seemingly impenetrable terrain, provide such life lessons for my daughter and students.

Even tragedies and/or unforeseen negative life circumstances can prove to be the "constant drippings" that hollow out our life stone. Ever met a woman who has overcome breast cancer? They have a certain glow about them that speaks of a quiet strength flowing throughout their inner being. The same is true for any other cancer survivor. They know the rock, the resistance and the conflict. Yet, their constant willingness to endure, fight and persist has left them with their own unique landmark -- survivor, thriver and inheritor of a thoroughly blessed milestone!

Therefore I ask you, just for today, can you reframe your abrasive encounters? Can you see them as the sand that might possibly forge your life landscape into something as picturesque as the Grand Canyon, the Great Lakes or even the Rocky Mountains? Then, can you let that thought flow, like the mighty Ohio River, throughout the week, months and even years, having full faith that our great Creator is carving your life to be just as magnificent!

May we all embrace the daily constant "drippings."

Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and an eighth-grade reading and writing teacher at South Point Middle School. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at hill992@zoominternet.net.