A story from Courage Does Not Always Roar.
My friend came to my office in tears. Unfortunately, she also left with her tears. I listened. I listened to her frustration and feelings of uncertainty. Her adored adopted daughter came with a set of challenges for which she was in no way prepared. At the time there was little information available about intercultural adoption, but she learned what she could. She thought she was ready for the journey of being an adoptive parent.
But this? Don't we all wish we had the advantage of hindsight to offer our friends in need? Ah. If I knew then what I know now I could have comforted her. I would have known to tell her that the challenges were not because her daughter was adopted but rather because she was brilliant. She was bright in ways that this small community had no tools to measure and no lens to see the breadth of her capacity. How does ANY mother know how to deal with that? But I didn't know then. No one did. It seemed logical to seize the apparent. To think it had all to do with being a multi-racial family in a non-diverse community. Or believe the challenges were tied to the adoptive transition process.
What I did know is to tell her I admired her. I told her how I thought she was brave.
"I don't feel very brave."
"Oh, but you are. You are demonstrating the most difficult kind of courage. The kind that faces difficulty day after day. You are trying to find ways to be the sort of mother you really want to be. I just wish I could help you see what a good mother you already are."
I am not a parent myself, and I felt out of my element. But I knew I was in my element for being a good friend. So I offered what support I could. Still.
There were tears when she left.
Her predicament stayed in my thoughts for some time. I wanted to be helpful and I thought perhaps my writing could show me something I needed to share. I wrote her a little poem I called "Sometimes."
Sometimes there aren't any trumpets - just lots of dragons. Sometimes ... there aren't any medals to win - no golden chalice, no honor in having fought a fierce dragon. Sometimes ... all you can say is, 'the day is done and I tried my best.' Sometimes the very best you can do is to keep trying."
This piece still hangs in her office.
"Sometimes" evolved into a poem which has found its way around the world. In speeches and books, eulogies and prayers, in art on walls, in blogs and on refrigerator doors. It was sketched into a New Yorker cartoon and featured in the Oxford Dictionary of American Quotations.
After September 11, 2001, I got a call from a client in . She'd driven by a fire station and the courage piece had been emblazoned in vinyl on a banner across a firehouse door. These were firefighters who were leaving their station every day to go work ground zero in 's . It's what they saw when they brought their trucks back home at the end of their arduous shifts.
When I ask people about courage, inevitably I hear stories of heroism. Of firefighters who run toward the fire, not away from it. Of daring rescues. I'll press further and ask to be told about how courage looks in their own lives.
Most folks tell me they just aren't that courageous.
People are stronger than they think and more courageous than they know. In the simplest terms, courage is doing something that produces fear. So what takes courage for me to do may not be what takes courage for you. We are afraid of different things. Because our two actions may be different from each other doesn't mean one is more courageous than another.
My friend continued in her commitment to work through her fear of not knowing what her child needed ... and every day, met her child with love. In each moment she gave of herself in the best ways she knew. Each day, she tried. Her daughter has grown into a unique, talented individual who graces the world with her abilities and creativity. She is a strong and confident woman raised by a courageous mother.
The poem, as it grew in my heart became this:
courage doesn't always roar.
sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the
end of the day saying,
"I will try again tomorrow."
In this time of philosophies that promote speaking success into being, and expecting nothing but the best, and seizing only the finest graces that you choose for yourself, this piece can be misunderstood. Choosing to persevere, agreeing with yourself to set down the burden of this day, and being willing to pick it up again tomorrow takes the most diligent and profound kind of courage. The strength of the "what if" casting itself as a combative question and the longing for resolution or ease in a circumstance - the fear of failure - these are all assailants that this quiet courage comes toe to toe with.