Mr. Lincoln and The Benefits of a Difficult Life

Walking around Washington DC for seven days, I forced myself to see the city as Lincoln saw it. It was a bit of a challenge as 2017 BMW's raced down Penn Ave. Nevertheless, I tried.

It wasn't until I strolled the grounds of Lincoln's Cottage for our teacher's fellowship that I was immediately catapulted into his time. This house museum is like no other I've seen throughout my history of studying great historical figures. Unlike other historical landmarks, this house - Lincoln's Cottage - was empty. Absolutely empty.

Except for his ideas.

As I sauntered from room to empty room, I began to realized why there was no more space for antique furniture. The weight of his concepts, his vision and his ideas filled the emptiness like a thundering waterfall filling up a reservoir.  These ideas subsequently became the cross that he was to bear for our nation day after day.

How does a man, a mere poor boy from Kentucky, carry this weight and maintain the future of this new world—this experiment of democracy—upon his shoulders?

In the family room at Lincoln's Cottage (aka The Soldier's Home) In the family room at Lincoln's Cottage (aka The Soldier's Home)

LESSONS FROM LINCOLN
The facts about Lincoln come easy to me. I have been submerged in his life since the 6th grade (as well Titanic facts for some reason) and my first educator fellowship in 2008 was to Springfield to visit his Presidential Library, law office, home and final resting place.

Saying Lincoln had a less than auspicious start is putting it mildly. When he was a boy, his sister died in childbirth and he lost his mother and grandparents within the a short time span to mad cow disease, which was a gruesome and painfully slow death to witness. His stern father was emotionally absent but thankfully, his step mother offered some type of stability and care. She ended up being a pivotal force in his life. "All that I am and all I ever hope to be, I owe to my mother," are his words I echo whenever I think of my own mother.

In his young adulthood, Ann Rutledge, the love of his life, passed away, burying a piece of Lincoln's heart with her. Subsequently, he was known to suffer from melancholy and depression throughout his life.

But the question I kept pondering as I walked on his porch towards the railing and gazed out at the national  cemetery in the distance was, 'Could Lincoln have carried this burden—this task of keeping the Union together amid so many lives lost—had he not suffered unimaginable loss himself? Did his childhood struggle serve as the preparation—his training ground—for what was to come?"

 

A Donorschoose grant allowed me the chance to visit Ford's Theater! A Donorschoose grant allowed me the chance to visit Ford's Theater!

 

A NEW NATION SEEN BUT NOW DIVIDED
The American Civil War was the deadliest war we've had on American soil and the number of causalities were astronomical. Since photography was coming into general existence around this time, it was also the first war where stark images of death and destruction were available to the American people in its true form. Gone were the gallant and triumphant painted presentations of war that were so familiar from the Revolutionary battles.

From April 1861, this war—that was only supposed to last a few months,—ended up lasting four arduous years with a death count steadily rising on Lincoln's watch. This assignment, I'm sure, would have broken many men but the man ascribed to this call had a level of tenacity, acumen and resilience that many of his counterparts lacked.

Lincoln was ready for the job, whether he knew it or not, and ended becoming one of the most iconic figures in our nation's narrative.

 

OUR LIFE LESSON
Most humans don't like pain and try to avoid it at all cost but when I look back on my life and really evaluate the tough, painful times, I realize how beneficial they were for my growth in character, endurance and in shaping the person I am today. Now, of course, my past is not even comparable to Lincoln's tumultuous beginnings but it still carried some intrinsic lessons I hold dear.

If you choose to battle through life's obstacles and see them as opportunities to learn rather then permanent failures to hid from, you can position them as stepping stones toward your greatness instead of placing them as tomb stones upon your apathy.

As JFK reminded us, don't pray for an easy life but instead pray for the strength to endure, stand firm, learn, reflect and have faith; because those are the traits that will be carry you through to fulfill the great call on your life.

Happy Birthday Mr. Lincoln Happy Birthday Mr. Lincoln!