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The Power of Persistence, Part Two

Inspired by yesterday's posting I persist in writing.

The other day two window washers at the New World Trade Center were stuck dangling 500 feet above ground for about an hour. Their plight was carried live on all the local TV stations. I’m sure many many people were praying for their safety and like me let out a sigh of relief and a song of praise when they were rescued by members of New York’s bravest, The Fire Department. I don’t think any one imagines this was fun for anyone involved. But I dare say all of them had one thing in common—persistence. Even in the short term. They didn’t give up. And persistence paid off.

But what about persistence in the long term? I mean the really long term. When things don’t work out for one reason or another for years and years and years. What then? Well….

I knew a man who was unable to walk or even move for more than 10 years. And when I say I knew him, I mean exactly that. Not of him, I actually knew him. When I met him, he was a cheerful twinkly writer of a certain age who walked to work each day over the MIT bridge (from Cambridge into Boston). Say what? He walked? I thought you said he couldn't?

Well he couldn't for a very long time. He was medically diagnosed while serving in the British Home Civil Service with an incurable form of paralysis and he was told he didn't have long to live. And to make matters worse (if that’s even possible) he had the bad fortune of getting this prognosis while he was living in London during the Second World War. During what was known as the Blitzkrieg—the nightly bombings of London. So he had to be carried down three flights of stairs to a bomb shelter in the basement of his flat. By his wife.

I’m telling you all this because this man followed the advice of Winston Churchill, who famously said, “Never give in—never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Or as an American like me might say, a tad more succinctly if less poetically, never give up.

I’m telling you this because he lived his persistence with grace and courage. He lived the quality of patience too, something that’s in short supply these days. He also persevered, which is just a shade different than persistence. Perseverance is persistence with a purpose.

So what did this man do during those long unimaginable years? He prayed. And prayed, and prayed. And healing came, slowly and not always surely, but it came.

And then he went on to live for many more years. Actively, gratefully, joyfully.

He would tell you he was healed by reading a book called Science and Health, the author of which, Mary Baker Eddy, also wrote this potent sentence, “The lives of great men and women are miracles of patience and perseverance.” (1)

In writing of the experience years later the man (his name was Peter Henniker-Heaton) simply said, “In the tenth year improvement began. I started to walk again, and sleep and appetite returned to normal. There were setbacks, and certain readjustments were not easy, but step by step the healing was finally established."

I tell myself his story any time I feel discouraged. Any time the gloom of modern life says what’s the point? What’s the use? I think of those window washers, safe at home now. I think of that man, that friend of mine, who walked, and leaped and praised God for his freedom. And then no matter what, I persist.

(1) Miscellaneous Writings by Mary Baker Eddy, page 340

(2) Christian Science Journal, April 1955

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