Amy, the mom
Winston Churchill, the famous World War II–era British prime minister, gave his most famous—and shortest—speech at a college graduation ceremony, telling the soon-to-be graduates: "Never give up. Let me continue by saying: Never, never give up! And in conclusion I say to you: Never, never, never give up!"
Not only was that great advice, but it also defines one of the family values in the Roloff household: perseverance. And while none of us Roloffs have ever had to lead a nation through the darkest days of a terrible world war, we have had opportunity to learn what perseverance is all about as—we've endured our own difficulties and challenges.
Perseverance means that you keep going, even when things are difficult—especially when things are difficult. It means getting up every single day without asking, "Why me?" or saying, "I can't go on!" but instead saying, "What can I do to make today a great one, despite all that is going on in my life now?" and "Thank you, God, for thinking enough of me to allow me to have to endure the pain and difficulty I'm going through now." And it means knowing that there is a purpose in what you're enduring and making sure you keep your eyes open to find it.
Being little people, Matt and I have had more to persevere through than most people. We have had to deal daily with our physical limitations, Matt has had to go through surgeries and other painful medical procedures, and we've both had to take being "looked down on" because we are smaller and because we are "different."
However, this isn't all bad news. We have learned that there are, in a very real way, advantages in what we've gone through when it comes to learning to persevere through difficult times.
Now, most average-sized people might look at us and ask, "How in the world can you say there's an advantage to being little?" The answer to that is simple: When you are a little person in a big world—or when there is anything about you that makes you "different" to the point where people can't help but notice or that limits you in some area—that difference tends to make you stronger mentally and give you "muscles" of perseverance and resiliency that most people don't have because they've not had to endure any real difficulties—at least not on the level that we have.
Someone who has lived what looks like a "perfect" life—someone who is tall and handsome, with a perfectly healthy body that has never been sick one day, and who came from a loving family in which the parents are still together—will probably find the going a little tougher if something bad or difficult were to happen in his life. If everything is going well for someone like that, and suddenly he loses his job or his wife gets sick, then he's going to have a tough time and maybe spend a lot of his energy feeling sorry for himself.
In our family, however, we have the attitude that we don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves. Do we ever wish some of the situations we face could be different from what they are? Yes! Do we ever pray that God will give us relief from some difficulty we're enduring? Absolutely! But one thing we don't do is allow ourselves the luxury of self-pity. Instead we allow the difficulties to make us stronger.
Matt, the dad
One of life's simple truths is that bad things happen to good people (and the other way around, for that matter), and there have been things that have happened to me and to my family that I would rather have avoided. But I have come to a point of understanding that when life's negatives outweigh the positives, when things are going on around me that I just don't think are fair, that's an opportunity for me to build up my perseverance.
There is an old saying that goes, "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger." I think that is why I'm where I am today. When I was a child, I went through many surgeries and countless hours of rehabilitation and other treatment, and even then God was using that suffering to make me stronger. Even back then, I never had a sense of "poor me!" and today I am reaping the benefits of persevering and overcoming that adversity.
Now when tough or negative things happen, I don't spend a lot of time moaning and crying about it. I'm able to absorb them and keep a positive attitude, knowing that because of what I've been through already, I'll have the strength to persevere and overcome whatever happens to me and to my family. If that means that Amy or I or one of the kids is sick and needs medical attention, we don't go into self-pity mode but just get it taken care of. If that means I lose a job I needed to support my family, I say, "It might be rough for a while, but something better is going to come along," then get out there looking for a new opportunity.
Perseverance is yet another value we have tried to instill in our children, and we do that by both encouraging and challenging them when they are going through difficult times at school or with their friends.
For example, there have been times when Zachary has struggled with the way kids treat him as a little person. We do give him some sympathy, but more important we give him a message very similar to the ones my parents gave me when I came home from school complaining and crying about the way the other kids treated me, and it's essentially this: "You've got to toughen up. You're not the only one to go through tough times, and it will get better."
In other words, Never give up!