GRIT column: Pushing economic progress in Rifle
Down on Main Street
A couple weeks ago I picked up a random audiobook at the library in order to have something to listen to as I drove to my two-week graduate school intensive.
“Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” is a nonfiction book chronicling the life of a Chinese mother and the raising of her two daughters in America. The author of and mother in the book, Amy Chua, made the conscious decision to be a strict disciplinarian in the initial raising of her children. They had to learn piano and violin to the extent of a professional, as well as maintain perfect grades. Extracurriculars and a social life outside of school were not allowed.
I do not have children, and if I did, I don’t know if I would parent this way. This certainly wasn’t the way that my mother raised me; I quit piano after one year, mostly in part because I thought the practice room smelled weird. But listening to this book at the beginning of my grad school career turned out to be extremely relevant.
Whether or not you agree with this parenting technique, there was a large takeaway from this story that made an impression on me. Chua argues that she pushes her children because she believes in all that they are capable of; she operates on the assumption that her children are strong, not weak.
On top of my full-time work with AmeriCorps VISTA, I am now a full-time grad student who studies and attends class. I also pick up odd jobs, stay involved in various organizations and hang out with friends.
These last few weeks have been a significant lesson in time management. But I no longer think that all of these things are insurmountable when combined. I am doing everything because I now believe that I can become accomplished at all of it. I am attempting to demand more of myself. I believe that I am strong.
It drives me nuts when I hear someone say that something is good enough after only exerting minimal effort. If it’s within our power to make something better, why don’t we? Is it laziness? A general resigned feeling toward the state of the world? Is good enough the norm?
Don’t get me wrong, in some cases I am the queen of underachievers. But in these cases, I also always feel dissatisfied with myself. I knew I could do better, and I didn’t.
Rifle became a Main Street community, and subsequently organized the Greater Rifle Improvement Team (GRIT) because we thought it was a good approach to what can be a complex problem. We wanted greater economic vitality and a stronger sense of community in the wake of challenging economic times. That’s not something that can right itself overnight.
A Main Street program takes an estimated 20 years of effort. But we didn’t do it because we thought Rifle was weak, we did it because we know Rifle is strong. GRIT is about demanding the best because of the fact that we are capable of the best, and it would be a waste to compromise in our efforts.
There is a lot of talk about living in the now, enjoying the moment and being content with what we have. Yes, we should most definitely do that, but don’t let that prevent you from acknowledging the idea that things can be better. You can love something and recognize its flaws. In fact, I would argue that only after you recognize the flaws can something be classified as love; otherwise it’s just infatuation or blind loyalty.
Some people like to say “that’s the way things are.” But again, just because that’s the way things are, doesn’t mean that that’s the way things should be. Even worse to me is when someone finishes a thought with “such is life.” Well of course it is, with a resigned attitude like that, how could it be anything else? Perhaps we could use a little more mental trickery and positive thinking and less resignation. After all, according to Dr. Seuss: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
We see things all around us and within ourselves that we know could use improvement. It can be hard to find that inertia on our own in order to exact change. Maybe that’s why Amy Chua pushed her daughters so much. There are a lot of things in the world that can get you down, and we can be our own worst enemy.
I say never let anyone tell you to resign yourself to good enough when you want to, and know that you can, do better; even if that naysayer turns out to be you.
It’s not a matter of whether or not Rifle is strong. The real question is how strong is it?
Cathleen Anthony is a member of the AmeriCorps Volunteers In Service To America branch and the assistant for the Greater Rifle Improvement Team. She can be reached at 970-665-6496 and firstname.lastname@example.org.