ValueSpeak - A Weekly Column by Joseph Walker


A little over a week has passed since the Academy Award ceremonies in Hollywood.  I think I can finally talk about my disappointment.

And no, it had nothing to do with what I saw on the red carpet (but seriously, whoever heard of a Roger Vivier tube clutch with a silver sequined Gucci gown?). Nor did my disappointment have to do with the hosts for the evening, even though I did find myself subconsciously humming “Thanks for the Memories” a few times during the evening.

I was disappointed because my movie didn’t win.  Not “my movie” in the sense that I wrote, directed, produced, starred in or had anything to do with a movie that was up for an award (although I do have a great little Christmas story that could be made into a movie – have your people call my people). It was “my movie” because I saw it, I liked it and I wanted it to win.

And it didn’t.

My movie was “True Grit.” I thought it was terrific.  Of course, I’m old enough to remember the John Wayne “True Grit,” and I liked that version, too – Glen Campbell notwithstanding. I like the story.  I like imperfect good guys – knights in dingy armor, so to speak. I can relate to that.  I like it when the bad guys are clearly bad, and get what they have coming to them.  I like justice that is neat, clean and uncomplicated by confusing realities. I like escaping in a darkened theater to a world in which a man with true grit can ride into the fray, reins in his mouth and rifles blazing, and take care of the problem.  ANY problem.

But mostly, I like grit (not to be confused with grits, for which I have never been able to acquire a taste). I like the idea of grit.  And I like people who have it.

According to my dictionary, one who has grit – true or otherwise – has “firmness of character, an indomitable spirit, pluck.” These are excellent traits, even if they can sometimes get you into trouble – just like they did with Rooster Cogburn.

My wife, Anita, for example, is as firmly charactered and indomitably plucky as they come. Not too long ago she was riding mass transit with our eldest daughter, Amy, and her family to a concert in a nearby city.  No sooner had the trip begun than a rather large and mostly inebriated gentleman sat next to her and began to talk to her. Loudly and obnoxiously. Unlike many of us who would be uncomfortable with that situation, Anita chatted pleasantly with the gentleman even though much of what he said was . . . well . . . relatively incomprehensible.

Watching this conversation, Amy’s husband, Brock, moved from his seat on the train to a standing position right behind Anita and the gentleman. I should mention here that Brock has served three tours of duty in Iraq – twice as a sniper. He can handle himself in a confrontational situation, if you know what I mean. And he was prepared to come to his mother-in-law’s aid. But Anita gave him a look that let him know she was fine, and continued her conversation.

At one point the man became agitated about something and started using harsh, vulgar language. Brock was about to intervene when Anita straightened up and faced her neighbor.

“I don’t like that kind of language,” she said, looking him . . . you know . . . pluckily in the eye. “If you don’t stop talking like that I’m going to move.”

Brock waited to see how the gentleman would respond, ready to  . . . well, the “fill your hand!” scene in “True Grit” comes to mind. But the gentleman calmed down immediately.

“I’m sorry,” he said, firmly chastened. “I’ll watch my mouth.”

Now, you might think that Anita was emboldened knowing that Brock was hovering nearby, just an eye patch away from doing a Cogburn on the man. But I’ve lived with this woman for nearly 34 years. She would have responded in the same way if she had been traveling alone. She’s plucky. Indomitable. Spirited. Truly gritty.

Hopefully you know someone like that.  In fact, you very well may BE someone like that. If so, I salute you. In a world filled with vacillating morality and wavering will, we need more gritty, plucky people.

Even if you don’t win Academy Awards.

— © Joseph Walker

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Check out Joseph Walker’s Latest Books!

Look What Love Has Done:  Five-Minute Messages to Lift Your Spirit. 

How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen?  Home Remedies for an Ailing World.

Christmas on Mill Street A Holiday Novel!

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