Perseverance and a Population of Two
By Amy Larson
As I thumbed through a high-quality picture book of Idaho atop a rustic coffee table at a Lake Cascade vacation rental home, my eyes fell upon a quaint, white church. Something about it spoke to me, although I didn’t know why. It wasn’t an intricate building. Its lines were clean and simple. Why did I like it so much? My question was answered by the text below the image, which said the building was in Roseberry and had been constructed by Finnish people who settled there. My heart leaped. Strangely enough, I knew a little something about Finland.
Twenty-five years earlier, I had met Jari Vesterinen, the first Finn I’d known. His wife Mona quickly became one of my dearest friends. Jari introduced me to the Finnish language, which I still don’t pretend to understand, and Mona also taught me a Finnish word: sisu. She said it’s difficult to translate into English, but the best definition for it might be courage and tenacity. The Finns use the word to describe someone who possesses strong determination, the ability to stick to something, and who is able to keep a cool head during crises. It’s a lasting quality, not a brief burst of courage for the moment. It’s sustainable. Being told you have sisu is the ultimate compliment.