Readers do justice in their choices for Word of the Year

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, December 27, 2018

A rider scaling a cliff on horseback, with the caption 'When the going gets tough… the touch get going!'

Stan Cowley drew on ranching culture to illustrate his choice of Word of the Year. Cartoon by Stan Cowley

’Tis the season for naming the Word of the Year. And if you can endure one more nominee….

On the heels of Collins Dictionary’s choice of “fake news” as last year’s Word of the Year, has identified “misinformation” as their choice for this year, and Oxford Dictionary has chosen “toxic.”

In view of the toxic associations of those Words of the Year, is there no justice? Yup, indeed there is, as Merriam-Webster has proven in their choice of “justice” as this year’s Word of the Year.

For evidence of a more positive attitude in word selection, I’d like to thank Tsuut’ina Nation Chief Lee Crowchild for his Facebook posting on Dec. 15. From the responses to his posting, it’s clear that many folks have a preference for words of warmth, beauty and virtue.

Lee has asked: “What single word in the English language was the word that kept you going?”

Here are just some of the responses: believing, children, compassion, Dad, daughters, faith, grace, grandbabies, grateful, hope, indomitable, love, Mom, persevere, potent, prayer, recovery, respect, son, strength, truth, and yes.

Lee’s own word was “horse.” Why?

“The horse represents our body of knowledge and worldview,” he said. “Those of us that are a ‘Horse Nation’ always relied on the horse to carry us – from out of danger and into battle when we had to. We maintained a relationship with the horse.

“I used the horse as a metaphor in my discussions with federal and provincial ministers as well as private conversations,” he said. “This always led to the spiritual connection. The ‘Horse’ is saying to us: ‘We are right here. Use us again. We haven’t left your side at all. You will find your way back if you speak to us, if you remember the language.’”

Ah, the wisdom of a horse lover! Lee’s posting brought to mind a response I received earlier this year from another horse lover, Cochrane’s cowboy cartoonist Stan Cowley, that underscores my own choice of Word of the Year for 2018. The Cowley’s Rafter Six Ranch founder was responding to my column for April 12, 2018.

In that column I shared Linda Kavelin-Popov’s reflections on a virtue exemplified by Jesus’ prayerful struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane only hours before his crucifixion. The founder of the Virtues Project noted that, in Jesus’ confrontation with adversity, he didn’t give up, but prayed, “Not my will, but thine, be done.” He endured.

“Endurance is our ability to withstand adversity and hardship,” Linda says. “When trouble comes, endurance gives us the strength to stay the course.”

Well, Stan understood well what Linda was getting at. So often in his public speaking Stan has spoken of a rider’s experience of getting bucked off a horse:

“Get bucked off? Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back on,” he’d say.

And thus, as Stan reaffirmed to me just the other day, his choice for Word of the Year – and mine – is “endurance.” The cartoon he created back in April says it all: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Thanks, Lee, Linda and Stan. You’ve done justice in your choice of words, and especially “endurance.” Yes, in toxic times like these we too can stay the course with endurance.

© 2018 Warren Harbeck

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