A Thanksgiving Thought

12/28/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

A friend asked me the other day what I'm grateful for in life. I thought for a few moments and said, "It's fortitude." Life presents sharp curves at times. Some leave indelible marks, but they leave us stronger too. My tough, 4' 11" mother at death's door fought back from five cerebral hemorrhages to talk, walk, drive, work and live another twenty-five years. She had fortitude beyond measure - spunk, spirit and humor too.

I've spoken this week with friends who are dealing with difficult times. They are tougher than they think.

I marvel at their fortitude. They get up each day and go on helping a child fight a long illness while meeting the needs of their other children as well, picking themselves up from a lost job, coping with a difficult relationship, or worrying about the health of a relative or friend. They despair at times, but that is part of the process.

When I think of what to be thankful for this year, there is a long list. But likely high up for most of us is every ounce of fortitude we can muster during difficult times. It forges, even in the darkest hours, a path through to brighter times. Fortitude is what allows us to lift our heads in that darkness to see a distant light, to rise to our knees, to our feet, and move forward toward a solution.

I don't know any other way to acquire fortitude than by going through hardship and coming out the other side. A lot of people won't be thanking God for keeping hardship from their doors this year, because that hasn't happened. But, with them, I'll be thankful for a measure of what it takes to meet each instance head on, to fall back if need be, but then to get up again and take life as it comes.

Dr. Reardon also blogs at

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