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Memphis Daily News
Resilience Gives Us Ability to Endure
November 17, 2014
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

It was the night of the Cub Scout Blue and Gold Banquet. The contest that year at the dinner was cake decorating, the theme was sports. Each Den, as those small groups of Scouts are called, was required to decorate a cake for the contest with no outside help.

Several months earlier, in a lapse of clear thinking, I had agreed to be a Den Mother. Every Wednesday after school, eight third-grade boys, including my son, gathered at our house. As Den Mother, I presided over what can only be described as controlled chaos.

My Den chose fishing, and decided to depict it by carving a fish shape out of a sheet cake. They were totally engaged in mixing up a bowl of grey-green icing and smearing it on their “fish.”

They completed their work with a piece of licorice in the shape of a hook coming out of the mouth of the fish. I had to admit, it really looked like a dead fish; not appealing, nor appetizing, but realistic.

That night the dead fish cake was placed next to the magnificent five-tiered cake that depicted the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, with 27 sporting events represented. It reminded me of the dreaded science fair. You know, the one where the project to see if plants grow better without water is sandwiched between the project that splits the atom and the one that replicates DNA.

My little Cubs had worked hard on their cake, and I was proud of them. Coming in last can be a mixed blessing. Mixed blessings always bring the seed of resilience. Resilience is that capacity to face, overcome and even be transformed by adversity, great or small. Resilience is the belief that the future will be good. It is hope.

We all have disappointments and adversity. We work hard, do our best, yet we fall short of our goal. We all experience losses, great or small. Some face stress such as illness, divorce or unemployment, while others confront catastrophes such as war, poverty or natural disasters.

There are many accounts of people facing and overcoming adversity in their lives in spite of the fact that their circumstances predicted that the adversity would overcome them. The difference is resilience.

Resilience, that mixed blessing that comes with any difficult circumstance, teaches us to see beyond disappointments, as well as catastrophes. It is that blessing of courage and hope supported by neither evidence nor reason, but only faith, which strengthens the human spirit.

Resilience is the reason we can endure dreadful headlines and small defeats with a sadness tempered by hope. Resilience is strengthened when failures, great or small, become learning experiences; and life’s circumstances, good or bad, are used as opportunities for continuous improvement.

Resilience is not about events that break your back, but rather, events that bend your knee. So, when you count your blessings this Thanksgiving, include in your prayer the wisdom to recognize the mixed blessing of resilience we sometimes receive.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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