I don’t know if it’s the samurai or the leprechaun in us, but from the stories my parents tell, my brothers and I were some spunky little kids.they tell how my big brother received a tinfoil bravery medal for calmly riding his kindergarten bus from one end of the route to the other when the bus driver forgot to stop at our house.
they tell how mute little toddler me found my voice to scream at playground bullies picking on my brother.
they tell about little Ryan, sitting through 22 stitches to his 4 year old face.
we had some guts, some grit.
Little kids are spunky. Little kids have bizarre reserves of courage.
And I’ve been thinking a lot about courage as I write this Katniss series and fight my own battles. Sometimes I look at my life and think ‘when did I get so fearful?’ ‘what happened to that little lioness, finding her voice and facing her monsters?’
It seems the older I get, the more aware I am of the harshness of this world and the more fearful and guarded I become.
Am I the only one who wishes she had the courage of her 5 year old self?
We use the term ‘bravery’ a lot with little kids, in the very physical sense. Tinier versions of ourselves had a lot of things bigger and scarier than us to face. Big dogs, big cars, big noises, big Chuck-E-Cheese characters. As adults, our ‘strangers’ and ‘bullies’ and ‘monsters’ take on the form of less tangible fears. Illness. Failure. Depression.Unemployment. Death. Divorce. Loneliness. Debt. – and bravery becomes less quantifiable and more elusive. More complex.
I’ve been attending a Presbyterian church and the service has more liturgy than the services I am accustomed to. I’ve grown to love this liturgy – the steadfast cadence of tradition – it makes me feel grounded and surrounded. One of my most cherished components of the Presbyterian tradition is the “Extending of Peace”. In the most modern sense, this is a “meet and greet” portion of the service, where you greet your church family and welcome visitors. But the hard core Presbyterians actually use this time to extend peace, which thrills me. The first time it happened, I was having a dark day, fighting some battles and feeling stormy and anti-social. An old woman approached me and before I had time to look busy or run to the bathroom, she asked me my name. I told her and she took my hand in both of hers, looked into my eyes and said my name and then simply “the peace of God.”
Now I’m not a person who is given to dramatics or exaggerations, but dammit, if I didn’t feel peace coursing through my veins, calming my storms.
I so often forget the power of the Spirit that we as God’s children have living in us. I forget how the deep calling out to deep can shake the foundations of my day. I forget that we’re agents of peace and vessels of the Spirit, passing peace from soul to soul.
And I wonder if something similar happens with courage.
Bear with me.
I’ve shared how it’s been difficult to start writing again. Difficult to face my monsters and be brave, put on my armor and fight. It seems whenever I’m ready to lay down and give up, someone sends a message or writes a letter or gives me a little pep talk that encourages me.
I mean it literally fills me with courage.
And I wonder if that’s the key.
Is this why kids are so brave? Because we tell them all of the time that are capable of winning their battles? That they are worthy of the fight? Because it’s so easy to tell a kid he is smart but somehow so difficult to tell your coworker that they are patient. If we see a little girl on a bus, it’s so easy to say “well don’t you look pretty!” but when is the last time we told our aunt she looks pretty or told the cashier at rite aid that she has a nice smile?
Like the passing of peace in a Presbyterian church service, can we pass courage to each other? Like the lighting of candles at Christmas eve, could we make each other stronger and braver?
I’ve talked about fighting, I’ve talked about armor, I’ve talked about being each others’ shields. But what happens when all of those things are in place but you’re lacking courage?
What if you’re an adult, facing your adult-sized monsters and you just don’t feel brave?
I understand that our courage should come from Christ, that perfect love casts out fear, that He that is within us is greater than that which is in the world.
I know that.
And I know we all know that.
But perhaps there is a function of the Body here that we’re overlooking.
I saw a quote on Pinterest the other day that summed it up well:
“we could discover the mysteries of the universe if we could stop being jerks for 5 seconds.”
How different, how much braver, how much more proactive would we all be if we took the time to extend courage to each other? Maybe it’s because I’m a New Englander and we are notoriously cold and reserved. Maybe all of you big-hearted Midwesterners and laid-back West Coasters and sunny Southerners encourage each other all day long. Maybe Boston is a little too long on intellect and short on goodwill.
As my brothers and I were growing up, so full of scrappiness and zest, my mom always quoted Thumper, that wise Disney sage: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” But to reverse Thumper’s logic –
If you have something nice to say, SAY IT.
Make someone brave. Extend courage.
Let’s be nicer to each other. Let’s win some battles.