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By Shane Gilreath
Pride goeth before the fall. The last few years have been humbling ones, as I find myself struggling through difficulties that I never thought I’d face; struggling through, like much of the nation. The last year, particularly – perhaps, a cumulative one – has, at times, been one to bring me to my knees. In those times, I’ve been one to believe a few things: it’s vitally important that, once on your knees, you take time to pray; while you’re parallel to the surface, you might as well look around for a path; and, three, as has always been my noesis, to draw strength, in those moments, from ancestors who’ve gone before. I’ve had to do all three more times than I can count. In the aftermath of a 2015 house fire, I remember telling our priest, “we are of good, strong Southern stock and we have surely weathered greater storms.” While the comment drew comparisons to Rick Bragg, such sentiments are not foreign to me, nor to the seemingly ancient branches of the family tree upon whom I look; many of whom, whose lives were decidedly more difficult than my own. Lately, climbing out of the triennial hole that the world has assigned for me often consumes my days and nights, leading to moments of cumbersome fatigue, if not weariness and wear. As I recently began reading the book, Revolutionary Summer by Joseph J. Ellis, I also began to ponder the life of a particularly long-ago grandfather – a Carolina planter, with whom I’ve always felt a connection – whose struggles coincided with the American Revolution. In doing so, I couldn’t help but wonder if the hardships and decisions he faced in the darkest days of revolution changed him through and through. He came from a region, after all, where loyalty to the crown was especially strong, but must have allowed happenstance – inspired by an unlikely friendship with an American hero, Nathaneal Greene – to lead him toward his and the nation’s ultimate destiny. In fact, call it kinship or delusion – despite our living centuries apart – I thoroughly believe it did change him. How could it not. In the same way that hardships and difficult decisions, in our day, change us; sometimes, our decisions; sometimes, others; but we live with the consequences either way. That feels a lot like the hand I’ve recently been dealt. So, in some subconscious way – in a very Southern manner, I should think, in a world that exists outside of Shintoism – I call on ancestors, like that grandfather, from time to time, knowing that the strength that led them lies, somewhere, equally in me.
To finish his tale of heroism, one of many of that generation, I know that despite being gravely wounded, he, a Captain by rank, witnessed a miracle at King’s Mountain, where I’m inclined to believe that God, via a miraculous fog, intervened on behalf of the Continental Army, who had summoned the courage to face King George’s legion, riding earnestly into the heart of the Southern Theatre, where ultimate victory would finally lay. In finding such bravery, there is sublime strength. There is also faith, and it must, too, still be in us – all of us – who possess the will to step into the arena. Humiliations and battles with pride may try their hand, but, in time, faith must prevail. I know it.
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