My mother wanted her four children to have gumption. My hunch is she received an oversupply of it from her father, Joseph Duffy, and felt obliged to pass on nuggets of aggressiveness, adventurousness, initiative, spunk and moxie to the next generation.
Gumption is to behavior as salt is to soup. A little of it brings out the best in all other ingredients, but too much of it ruins the recipe. It’s hard to put the right amount of gumption in your life when you inherit a shaker with much too large holes.
Without meaning to, I’m constantly grading those close to me on how much gumption they sprinkle in their lives.
For example, The Change Companies has employees with an abundance of gumption, and others with not so much. It would be a dangerous place if they all were like my mother, but at the same time, the company would not have survived these last few years if they all were gumption-less.
Now my wife, Sherry, has lots of gumption. It shows up in her limitless energy at work, her freestyle wrestling with grandchildren and her resourcefulness for capturing each moment.
Sherry and I have three children. They all have gumption but not at the same levels. In the spirit of maintaining peaceful family relations, I will say no more about that.
My mother never lost her gumption. She came to live with us a dozen years ago when her mind had begun to slip back to her childhood days in Boone County, Iowa. She was determined to return to her daddy and be little Irene Duffy once again.
In March of 2001, approaching 90 years of age, my mother made a run for it. She filled an old, brown suitcase of mine with her hair dryer, some bed linen, a pewter candleholder and a couple of green apples. She hopped the fence of our backyard and waited on a dusty road for a phantom Boone County bus to take her back 80 years.
We found her standing, suitcase in hand. She had no intention of getting into our car.
Now, a decade after her passing, I smile lovingly at that image. Such gumption.