I’ve always been impressed by resourceful people. When things look bleak, these amazing pioneers show imagination and gumption. They don’t let the negativity of the situation determine their attitude or the eventual outcome. Sometimes I worry this skill set may be disappearing.
Take my childhood, for example. When my sisters and I got bored in the grocery store or in the line at the bank, we would entertain ourselves. We didn’t have mom’s phone to play games or watch videos. Instead, we would make up activities.
We would take turns pretending that we were blind so that the “sighted” sister could guide us around the clothes racks. (“Oops, sorry” was an oft-repeated phrase from the “sighted” sister as the “blind” sister ran into mirrored columns and walls.)
Another favorite pastime during the hours of errand-running boredom was to tie a string into a circle and play string games like “Cat’s Cradle” and “Soldier’s Bed.” When there wasn’t a string nearby, we would pull the elastic from the waistband of our underwear to make one. Now that’s resourceful. (Our mom might have preferred we had less saggy underwear instead of bugging her while she shopped at Castner-Knott. Actually, it was probably a toss-up.)
Back in the 1990’s there was a show called MacGyver. In every episode, MacGyver would get into a pickle—often bound and gagged in a locked room—and he had to keep his wits to get out of it. At some point, everything looked hopeless: the timer on the bomb counted backwards to zero or MacGyver heard heavy footsteps of the armed and angry villains just a few feet away.
MacGyver had to ignore the desperateness of his circumstances. He had to still his fear long enough to take stock of what he had available to him.
Wrists and ankles tied up? No problem. He can melt the plastic zip ties with a wire coat hanger and space heater. Giant missile about to explode and destroy a Russian orphanage? Don’t sweat it. He can diffuse a missile with a paper clip and a wad of chewed gum.
The show has been satirized for its unrealistic ridiculousness, but you still have to appreciate this guy’s abilities. For me, even more than his knowledge of lock-picking, safe-cracking, and bomb-diffusing, I’m impressed by his unrelenting optimism.
There are times when I can get pretty low. The news tells me that we live under a constant threat of danger for our lives and our way of life, and it’s only getting worse. It tells me to fear everyone and everything around me.
But what if I take a page from MacGyver’s life? What if I look around at what’s available to me and then I act? I don’t sit in a corner and give up in despair. And I don’t waste time casting blame on others. Instead, I look for ways to make things better. I don’t run away from problems, but I stay and save others from harm. Let’s use our resourcefulness to make this world a better place.