There were a lot of four-letter words used in our household growing up. Dad used them regularly to get a person’s undivided attention in the shortest amount of time — and it worked.
However, there were four four-letter words that were not allowed in the Hill household: “Don’t,” “Won’t” and “Can’t” were three of them.
The absolute worst of all was “Quit.” That four-letter word was never tolerated so, therefore, was never used.
Once we started a task or activity, those four words were tabled. We could choose not to embark on an effort and sit on the sidelines if we wanted — but once we started, we had to stick with it until the end, win, lose or draw.
Many otherwise well-meaning and respectable folks are wringing their hands at the current state of America. A few say openly, “I think America is gone forever. It is not worth doing anything to save it anymore. I am going to take all my money and go retire in the Caribbean somewhere and just get away from all of the bad things going on in America today.”
In other words, they are quitting. They would not have wanted to say that in front of Tiger or Anne Hill.
Dad was a tough, hard-headed and hot-tempered Irish Catholic from Asheville who became an all-American Hall of Fame football player at Duke when, believe it or not, they were a national powerhouse.
Mom was a Queens Village New Yorker of Dutch descent who met Dad as an 18-year-old junior at Duke. Both grew up during the Depression and then suffered through the hardships of World War II like everyone in their generation did. Dad spent nine months in a naval hospital in Seattle after being burned by flaming oil from a kamikaze attack on the USS Lexington in the Battle of Coral Sea in 1944.
Complaining about how hard football practices were or how your feelings were hurt by Little Johnny or Sally didn’t rate very high with parents who grew up in the Depression or fought in World War II. Maybe a little sympathy would be offered, but pretty soon, their advice would be “Get over it! Move on!”
During robust dinner conversations, fiery debate would erupt over civil rights, the Vietnam War or another current issue. The message from both parents at the end inevitably would be, “Well, what are YOU going to do about it?” They never asked what our friends were going to do about it.
We learned early on that if we really cared about something, it was wrong not to do something about it. If we started a task, we had to finish it. Once we started, we could not say, “I can’t do this.” We could not say, “I don’t want to do this anymore” either. If achieving the goal required some sort of sacrifice and pain, saying “I won’t do that” was the kiss of death.
But The Worst Four Letter Word of Them All was, and still is: “Quit.”
“If you quit now when things are tough as a teenager, each time you face difficulty in your life, son, you will find it easier and easier to quit,” Dad told me during a three-hour father-son “conference” after I announced I wanted to quit the football team following an early-season loss where a Henderson Vance fullback caused a gash to appear over my left eyebrow.
He was right. Once you quit, it is easier to quit the next time things get tough.
If you’re so despondent about politics today in America that you want to give up, go ahead. It is your right to do so. But please, don’t ever complain about how bad things are going to get under President Joe Biden and the radical socialists ever again.
“Quitting” means you have stopped trying to solve the problem. It also means you have forfeited your freedom to make the rest of us miserable hearing about how miserable you think things are in America.