My grandmother was fond of saying, “I might wear out, but I won’t rust out.”
That was her way of saying that she would keep on keeping on until she could do no more. She would never sit idle. For the last decades of her 80-plus year life, she lived alone in a farm house so far back in the country that people walked toward town to go hunting.
Like so many of her generation, she was resourceful. She was able to use the means at her disposal to meet her situation. She thrived in that simple farm house with wood-burning fireplaces for heat. She made, grew, raised, and re-processed everything she needed for daily life.
Looking back, I draw much inspiration from how simply, yet successfully, she lived. Compared to the typical suburban home owner of today, she lived in poverty with no “modern” conveniences. But she did just fine, thank you very much.
If I could give my students one skill to help them in their lives, I would give them resourcefulness. Resourcefulness would help them when all else fails. Resourcefulness means the difference in, to paraphrase Faulkner, “surviving and prevailing.”
I inherited a lot of my grandmother’s DNA. I have always been resourceful, meaning that I could function with what I had and make do. If I needed something, I could repair a broken one, or in some cases, make it completely. Of course, I am talking about simple things, not the accouterments of today’s techno-society. I am not smart enough to build the tools of a Web 2.0 world.
But I have built houses, restored antique automobiles, fixed what needed fixing around the house, and in general, done what I needed or wanted to get done. After my accident and resulting paraplegia, my resourcefulness kicked in big time to help me function in a world full of barriers for a person with a disability.
I believe that resourcefulness begins early. Children learn how to play with things around them. Their fertile imaginations create toys out of everyday objects. It makes me sad when we adults thrust upon children a regimentation that shuttles them from one experience to another, from this lesson to that lesson, from this activity to that meeting. Let them go into the back yard and play in the dirt.
That is, if you even have a back yard. Every child should have a back yard with real grass and real dirt. Throw in some scrap lumber, some rope, some nails, and some simple hand tools. You will be amazed at what the little darlings might create. Rather than fritter their time away, they will make something happen, something creative and fun. And, at times, they will demonstrate resourcefulness and make something useful.