It started with a previous blog post. A friend told me about Malcolm Gladwell’s book “David and Goliath “ in reference to me wondering why some people survive tragic circumstances and others get stalled in life because of them
Since Christmas time puts me in the book store often looking for gifts for our book loving family, I picked up a copy to see what he had to say. I wasn’t a stranger to his books, so knew there would be interesting reading.
Gladwell talks about many famous people in history who lost a parent early in life, and how that affected them. A psychologist named Eisenstadt noted that a surprising number of “creatives” – innovators, artists and entrepreneurs – had lost a parent in childhood. Eisenstadt went through two Encyclopedias, ( didn’t have google in those days !) and surveyed all those that warranted space of more than one column. Out of a list of 573 people he could track biographical information on, he found that one quarter had lost a parent by age 10 and forty five percent had lost a parent by the age of 20 ! Sixty seven percent of British Prime Ministers in Lucille Iremonger’s studies lost a parent before the age of 16. Twelve out of the first 44 American Presidents lost fathers while they were young. Canadians aren’t documented as well, but our charismatic Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau would fit in this category. 1
Apparently parental loss crops up in many studies. Prisoners, too are two to three times more likely to have lost a parent in childhood. That’s not so good !
Gladwell goes on to explain that some gifted scholars fail in University seemingly because they are too psychologically happy. He says that the death of a mother or father is a
propellant that sends them catapulting into life. Because they are on their own, they are forced to persist, to invent, to chart their own way — into a curious category Gladwell dubs “eminent orphans.” 2
Makes one think doesn’t it. Surviving what Gladwell calls “near misses” makes many people strong. He goes on to speculate that although losing a parent early in life, or other types of traumas, certainly would never be wished on anyone, but society truly needs those who are made stronger by a tragedy and came out of it stronger.
It helps know that many people go on from hurtful experiences to be strong leaders, entrepreneurs, and artists.
My personal beliefs are that God uses our hurts and broken circumstances to build his people. Although I am certainly not a great fan of the sayings ” what He brings us to He will bring us through” and ” What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
I am certainly glad that I was one of those survivors. I must admit, that some of those survivor characteristics haven’t always made me easy to live with, but in time have helped shape a gentler, happier person.
I am thankful for that.
1 George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Grover Cleveland, Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton and Barak Obama