Victor Hugo, the great French author who gave us Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, wrote: “Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.”
Pastoral scenes remind us of the serenity that time in nature offers, but sometimes we feel as though we’ve been knackered by life.
Knackered comes from a slang term meaning “to kill,” as well as “to tire, exhaust, or wear out.” The origins of the verb remain uncertain, but the word may relatesto an older noun which originally referred to a harness-maker or saddlemaker, and later referred to a buyer of animals nolonger able to do farm labor, or a buyer of old buildings. Knackered is used on both sides of the Atlantic but is more common with British speakers.
When we feel worn out and “done in,” it’s good to remember Victor Hugo’s words. We can only do our best. Controlling all the outcomes lies beyond our powers. I can’t help but think how the WWII nurses of the Eleventh Evacuation Hospitalmust have grappled with this concept–they did their utmost to relieve suffering and sustain life.
But sometimes their efforts led to lesser outcomes–the undesirable natural consequences of war. They arrived in French Morocco with the best of intentions to use their training to the utmost.
They labored under impossible conditions:
And when they finally got a break from their backbreaking work, they fell asleep. That’s all a human being can do. But along the way, they found beauty…in a simple wildflower, in the laughter of their comrades, in letters from home.
And so it is with us. Whatever we’re facing, we fund little joys tucked into our days . . . we simply must look for them.