Pressure is an unrelenting force in everyone’s life. There are pressures all around us, pressure from parents, school, society, air, and tires. There are internal and external pressures, which push people to either give in, or to conquer their fears and demons. Pressure is always going to be a part of life, and how we deal with these pressures is what helps us grow as people.
A boy wakes up to the blaring of his analog alarm clock. He swings his legs out from under the blanket his sister knitted for him, to keep him warm on the cold winter nights so common in Portland, Maine. Many people only think of poverty in huge cities, but it is everywhere you look.
His mother couldn’t pay the heating bill, so he shivers when his bare feet hit the freezing floorboards. He shuffles to the bathroom his family all share and washes up for the morning. Anyone who witnesses this would think the sixteen-year-old boy was many years older than he truly is, simply by how he walks. He has a way about himself that speaks volumes as to the responsibilities he holds.
Each morning he is out on the streets collecting bottles cast aside. He runs from can to can with his garbage bag over his back. No one ever acknowledges him on his never-ending quest for the five-cent refund each bottle holds, though they all look down on him. It’s embarrassing to watch this child do something so humiliating. He is ashamed to have to do it, but every bottle counts for his family. These bottles mean more than many people would even care to know.
He fills the bag before his first class, but he still needs to return them to the grocery store, which is the opposite direction from his school. He makes the run in his boots, covered in duct tape and grocery bags, and treads through snow to reach the store.
He gets to the store, where he has applied for a job so many times in the past two years. He has been turned away every time. The store only needs so many workers, and they would rather hire the many adults on the street than a kid. He pushes all the bottles and cans of drinks he can’t even afford into the refund machine as fast as possible. He gets his money from the clerk, who looks on him with pity, but little else. That is all the boy ever receives: pity, never action. He runs out the door, and books it to school, where he will have missed all of his first two classes. The teacher has told him if he misses too many more, he will have to serve detention, which he cannot afford to do.
Pressure can seem overwhelming, if thought about for too long. Leaving school and driving to a home where pressures from your family to get good grades, while helping support your brothers and sister, is a real concern for many kids in America. Coming home to no food in the pantry, a broken family, and no relief in sight is a real concern for many people. These scenarios are tough to think about in day-to-day life for me, but they are a difficult reality to escape for the marginalized.
The pressures faced by these people are greater than our own, but at the same time, we can learn from them, instead of simply acknowledging their presence. The pressures your average McQuaid kid faces from school and their family can be difficult, and we can look to the strength of these people as an example. The struggles faced by others can show us that our own struggles are not impossible to overcome.
Complaining is a common response when the pressure is rising. Complaining does nothing to overcome the pressure and power through the challenge. Action is the best solution when pressure is presented. The world is full of talkers and complainers. What really makes changes and promotes the common good is action.
Pressure can feel like it is never going to end. Part of life is dealing with different pressures as we get older. Finishing the school year, high school, then college, all present their own challenges. The reason we as people continue to face this adversity head on is the fact that we know there will be good days after the bad, and sunshine after the rain. Life isn’t always fun, but the struggle in getting to the good times is what makes it all worth it.