An essay from an election year that didn't go our way.
Good to reflect, as we move into another one in 2016.
WHAT YOU WIN WHEN YOU LOSE
November 6, 2004
Everybody who tries, wins, sometimes. And everybody who tries sometimes loses. As delighted as I was with the excitement and participation of young people in the political process during the recent presidential campaign, my heart sinks as I consider the discouragement of some of them now. Their hearts are still tender. A cherished magic has died for them, one of the very last of the magical things they carried from childhood, perhaps: the magic of trying -- "If you try hard enough and long enough, you will succeed. You can't be defeated."
Yes, you can. No, you won't always win, not even if you give it everything you've got. Not necessarily. Not always. That feeling of power and purpose that filled your heart and gave you a joy you had not known before -- that wasn't magic. That was you, fully engaged.
But even if it isn't magic, you can keep it if you want to. Each battle we fight strengthens us, whether we win it or lose it. From each one, we learn how to contend. Each stretches us. And losing -- losing anything, from an election to a job search to a sweetheart -- always invites us to abandon false pictures of the way the world works, to which we may have clung too long. When you lose, you must face the fact that something you did just didn't work. And you are invited to think about next time. How might I do things differently?
And there is another thing about losing: it invites us to gather what remains around us like a warm blanket and hold it close. Life is never confined to our worst moments. Losing does not sum us up. As we are always less than our victories make us appear, so we are always more than our defeats. Do you still have your music? Is there still poetry? Are there books you still love, things you have not yet tried? New things? Go for it, all of it. Everything new love you acquire, every new skill, even every new fact, will make you stronger and wiser for the next time you decide to enter the fight for what you think is right.
"Poor Q! How is he doing?" my daughter asks.
"Oh, well, you know," I say.
Q worked hard on this campaign: canvassed, sent letters, knocked on doors, drove old people to the polls. But he's okay. Q worked on Adlai Stevenson's campaign in North Carolina. He already knew you don't win every time.
Remember how it felt to try. Remember how it felt to organize. Remember. And don't be afraid to do it all again. Because you may not win every time, but you also don't lose every time.