When the multi-volumed story of my life is finally complete, I would like to think I shall be read as a plucky heroine, someone who could grab hold of the reins with finesse, someone unafraid of the dark, someone brave. I know I can haul in an armload of firewood and have a roaring blaze crackling before dinner is on the table. I can dig a flowerbed. I can drive five hours to the beach by myself with only a bag of celery for sustenance and I can stop a snarling, charging dog in his tracks with a nothing but a strong yell and a fearsome look. (Okay, Edward helped with that last one, but I like to think that I played a part.) I can write a blistering letter to the editor when the mood strikes me, and when faced with arrogance or rudeness, I assure you that I can be quite the master of the withering stare. However, The Songwriter will tell you that a water beetle in the house can send me right up atop the kitchen counter, and frankly, I couldn’t change a tire if you paid me. But then, there are all sorts of definitions for pluck, I suppose. And as for bravery, it is a virtue to which I aspire, for it is one I have seen up close.
These days, as a culture, it appears to me that we admire quite different values than those of the past. Bombast and swagger seem highly esteemed whilst the qualities of bravery and courage, so closely connected as they are with gallantry and honour, are rarely spoken of outside the theatre of war. Real, personal bravery is quiet, and rarely noticed, but no less remarkable to me. In our current age, it takes real bravery to live a life well-lived. It is so much easier, so much more comfortable, to lock one’s door and remove oneself from all the troubles of the day. It takes courage to step outside of oneself and into the shoes of another. It requires courage to endeavour to make things better, to consider other ideas, to admit you don’t have all the answers. Sometimes it takes great courage simply to put one foot in front of the other.
I see little acts of great bravery all around me these days. They often accompany a dire diagnosis, or the loss of a job. They appear in the form of a smile or a hug - good humour in a check-out line, or courtesy to a stranger. They send someone off to a neighbor with a bouquet of garden roses, or to the telephone to call a troubled friend. They are meals cooked and laundry done, work done well and laughter shared.
Little acts of bravery, occurring in spite of it all.
The Songwriter’s best friend lost a twelve month battle with leukemia several years ago, a battle he faced with remarkable courage and humour. I once asked him how he did it. He told me that each morning, before his feet hit the floor, he made a conscious choice to be happy that day. An amazing answer to my question. An amazing act of courage. The brave hero of his own life story. Something I aspire to.