Resilience is All Around Us

Like many Denver theatre lovers, I’ve eagerly awaited the premiere of Hamilton, the musical, in Denver! Yet, as I work to secure tickets, I learn that I’m number 96,391 on the waiting list. 96,391! This is truly an exercise in resilience!

Perhaps it’s only fitting given that Alexander Hamilton, the American founding father whose life the play Hamilton depicts, is himself a study in resilience. He grew up an orphan in the West Indies and made his own way to America at the age of 19. He then dedicated his life to American independence and liberty, helping to create the U.S. constitution, and founding our nation’s financial system. A song that I particularly love from the musical Hamilton is called “My Shot.” The chorus is:

I’m just like my country

I’m young, scrappy and hungry

And I’m not throwing away my shot

This is exactly what I want for our JA kids. For them to take “their shot,” with confidence, knowledge and the skills to prosper.  Some of our students face tough challenges; however, which make that difficult. They experience poverty, live in troubled homes and face bullying and isolation.

Resilience is defined as the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. It’s our capacity to adapt well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal – The Secrets of Resilience, by Dr. Meg Jay – that I found particularly insightful. In her article, Dr. Jay talks about the power that our internal dialogue has on our ability to face and overcome stress. According to Jay, “Fighting back on the inside is where battling back on the outside begins.”  It all starts with our own belief that we can overcome challenges and move through difficult situations. She points out that taking control of small things where we can is empowering and that it helps to make a realistic plan to improve our situation and work toward it daily. As she states, “Progress shores us up and calms us down.”

So how do we help our JA students learn and practice resilience? For me it comes down to the power of example – positive and caring adult role models who bring their knowledge, skills and optimism into the classroom. Our volunteers help young people see what’s possible with education and hard work. They share their own stories of rising above adversity and offer encouraging examples of success in life.

From JA volunteers to friends and family members, to historic icons like Alexander Hamilton, examples of resilience are all around us. As for me, I see that I am now number 82,346 on the wait list for Hamilton tickets. I will not give up!