Friday – this week I am grateful for … resilience


This week I watched Life at 5. The synopsis from the ABC website offers this:

The LIFE series aims to unlock the secrets of child development to find out what gives a child the best chance at life. As these 11 young Australians grow up we’ll witness their lives, we’ll test their progress and discover what makes us who we are. Join us for the beginning of an extraordinary and groundbreaking journey.

I watched fascinated, and for most of the time with a heavy heart, as several sad tales were told of the 11 children and their families. Some of the families have broken up, some of the children have suffered great hardship. The first thirty minutes in particular were really hard to watch as the film makers summarised the past two years of these childrens’ stories.

Then suddenly, among all the pain and anguish, there was a little bright ray of hope. During one of the experiments, aptly named ‘The Disappointment Task’, the children were given a big box of things. Some toys, some ordinary household items and some things that were just stuff. They were asked the choose which things in the box they would most like to receive and which thing was their least favourite. The huge stuffed dog and the spinning top received a lot of positive attention. Soap, a battery and a hexagonal shaped plastic ‘wheel’* were all chosen by various children as least favourite. Then the children were brought back into the room and given their ‘present’ – which was, of course, the thing they wanted least.

One child in particular stood out. Daniel. His grace when receiving the plastic circle was extraordinary. He was positive, he smiled, he started to invent games for it. He was genuinely pleased – and it was crap. Such utter crap as a present. Of course, the reward was then that he was also given the toy dog which he really wanted. When asked he simply said ‘oh I like both’. Later when he was leaving with his mother he said ‘I did it all by myself’. The researcher said about Daniel that he demonstrated adaptability and the ability to make the best of things.

Most adult people couldn’t have mustered the graciousness with which Daniel received the crap present. Not a flicker of disappointment registered. He controlled his emotions, and engaged with the unexpected present in ways that made it fun. Daniel’s circumstances were tough. His mother was pregnant, she was losing her sight, his parents were about the be separated, his older brother had died. And yet this little kid was able to be charming, and friendly and see the best side of situations he found himself in. He has an ability to adapt, this is key, as the researchers describe, to being a resilient person.

What I am grateful for his week is resilience. Sometimes there can be so many little trivial details that annoy, frustrate and unravel as one tries to move through the world. Now when one of those petty irritations arises I have a new benchmark. Can I muster some, just some, of the adaptability of that little boy. Can I show just a little of the strength of character Daniel displayed when receiving the terrible plastic wheel. This has reminded me what life is all about and I learnt it from a five year old. Which goes to show that everything you need to know you learn in kindergarten. Play nice with the other kids, wash your hands, eat your lunch sitting still and say thank you. All you really need to know.


*It isn’t a wheel at all. It is a sticky tape reel. Thanks Naomi :)