At first I thought I’d write I was grateful that I am descended from a long line of ornery people, which is another way of saying stubborn. Ornery sounds playful next to stubborn.
My ancestors were the ones who jumped aboard a ship or into the fray because that was the thing to do. They sailed across oceans and traveled by wagons. These folks were not intimidated by rock hard earth or relentless winds. They were too ornery to admit defeat.
However, now I realize that what I thought was being stubborn was really the gift of optimism.
I am descended from people who believed they could make a good life if they rolled up their sleeves and worked hard enough. They valued commitment, family and ideas. If the field needed plowing, they all joined in. Male, female, old and young — sex and age didn’t make a difference. Willing hands did.
That attitude applied to education as well. An intelligent mind was one that served. At the turn of the last century, even the women went to college and no one held back an opinion.
I didn’t learn about the “Cult of Domesticity,” i.e. that women’s work was solely relegated to domestic roles, until I moved to the East Coast. The concept wouldn’t have worked in a farming community anywhere — including the East.
When Achilles, Kan., needed a postmaster, my grandmother took on the job. Her mother had a master’s in Latin and served as the schoolteacher and the debate coach while her aunt was a missionary in India during World War I. The women in my family worked. So did the men. My grandfather was the grocer, a farmer and the butcher — and later in life a florist, because there was always something he could do.
When the community where I grew up needed a hospital, my parents were part of the team to raise the funds and do the planning. They didn’t wait for the government. There was a need and they wanted to do what was right for all. Nor did they have doubts of success. They understood everything would winnow out the way it should. Optimism.
It has been handed down, one generation to another. I’ve watched as we became multicultural and more diverse in our beliefs, but none of us in the family has lost trust that we could make a good life.
Today, while pundits predict doom and gloom, my son, his wife and a nephew have started their own businesses, filling a need they saw in their community. I have a son-in-law who is making a name for himself as a craft brewer and a daughter who sees opportunity and fulfillment in the health industry. Another daughter and her husband are in service to this country. A niece is following her great-great-grandmother’s steps and entering the teaching field.
Nor is this attitude just part of my family history. My husband’s people left Ireland with nothing but a belief they were moving toward something better and founded a company that has been over 50 years in business. My son-in-law’s family emigrated from Peru a little over a decade ago and are now homeowners and part of the vibrant fabric of our society.
And that is the reward for optimism.