Sunday, November 16, 2008

Everyday Courage

When we are young, we think of courage as something brave people do on the battlefield or hardy people do to cross a glacier. These things do take courage but they are not the only kind of courage. Actually, I have begun to think that there is a lot of courage all around us but unrecognized, unspoken everyday courage. Like the good dishes that are pulled out of storage for the holidays, there is the spectacular courage of Iwo Jima or expeditions to Antarctica; then there are the everyday dishes, that are just there everyday so that we hardly think of them at all. Every time I get my hair cut, I come right up to every day courage. (No, I’m not afraid of scissors…) I mean the woman who cuts my hair. Her husband has been sliding into dementia for the past few years. He is just a shadow of the person he used to be and she misses him very much even though he is right there. She now has to do everything—her work is their main income, she has full responsibility for the house, yard, bills, meals, car repair and for him. He is still able to feed and toilet himself but she knows full well that it is just a matter of time until he won’t be able to do those things. Yet, I’ve never seen her despair—she does her work, takes care of him, and talks about her extended family, holidays, my family, what’s going on around. She’s not alone; there are so many other caretakers just keeping on keeping on bravely, with everyday courage. There are parents of terminally ill children, there are the elderly who are alone. I think there is more everyday courage going on than we can imagine.

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