Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A note about courage.

It isn't pretty. We have this image of a clean, handsome soldier being decorated on a stage with a polished piece of gleaming metal. We'll hear about someone else's bout with courage from the comfort of our own living room or from the convenience of our computer. Sometimes we forget that courage is in the smoke-filled, downward-spiraling cockpit. Or it's on the sidewalk when you're walking toward the last person on earth that you wanted to see. Or it's in the middle of the night with a crying, vomiting child. Or it's in a remote village watching machine guns take down your family. Or it's in a stark, beeping hospital room, far from anything comfortable or pleasing.

And that's just in the midst of your choice to be courageous. What you end up looking like on the other side is likely a tattered shell of your former self, like a starfish with only three arms. The gray hairs & wrinkles from stress & tears. Stretch marks from labor. Scars from accidents, surgeries and devastation.

Thank goodness it's what's on the inside that counts. The inside. Full of imperishable substance: every piece of development, every forgiveness, every instance of generosity, every wrong we've righted, every ounce of courage, every good thought and good deed added like a hand-crafted piece of Venetian glass to the work of art known as your soul, through which the sun shines in a million different hues. Astoundingly beautiful.

All of nature offers lessons on living, free of charge. One morning I noticed a dead tree supporting many living things--fungus, vines, lichen--which taught me that even after death we can continue to support those who live on. Living trees on our property teach other lessons.

One tree has grown around a barbed wire fence. Another has grown around a nail, and a third through a chain link fence. These trees teach me how to accept irritation, absorb the pain and grow around problems. Nature teaches me how to find my place, grow toward the sunlight and bypass obstacles.

To survive, we must be able to change in response to whatever is required by the challenge of the moment. Our bodies know this, but our minds often rebel when change is necessary.

Bernie S. Siegel

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