I met a little boy in the San Diego airport on Monday. He stood about the height of a five-year-old, but his face looked to be maybe eight or nine. He walked with crutches. The for-life kind of crutches with the metal rings that wrapped around his forearms for extra support. Walking down the concourse was a lot of work for him, but it was clear that walking had always been a lot of work for him. No big deal. But certainly more work than for everyone around him. As Greg and I ordered our breakfast at the juice bar, his little family turned up again there in the crowd, and in the crush and bustle of the morning rush for an airport breakfast, the little boy balancing on crutches got jostled and fell to the floor. I imagined that this wasn't new for him, it probably happens a lot. I found myself imagining falls on the playground or in the lunchroom at school, and the mother's heart in me pounded as I watched today's clattering tumble to the hard tile and then his patient struggle to get himself back on his feet again. I gave him and his mom a minute to get straightened around and walked over to them.
"I want you to know something." I looked him right in the eyes, not exactly sure what I was going to say next, but wanting to express this emotion rising in my heart. I had to fight to make sure I didn't tear up and embarrass him. Finally, the feeling identified itself and I went on. "I want you to know that you give me courage." I had to pause again. "In fact, I think you give lots of people courage. Every single day. I think it's important for you to know that who you are, and the courageous way you handle the challenges in your world, gives me, and gives others, the courage to handle the hard things in our lives. I think this makes you a hero, and I want to thank you for that."
He and his mom exchanged a quick glance and she whispered to him, "Do you want me to show her?" He nodded enthusiastically, and Mom unzipped his backpack and slid out a small toy dog.
"It's a German shepherd!" he told me, his face bright and smiling.
"Do you want to tell her his name?" his mom asked. He nodded again.
"Courage," he said. "My dog's name is Courage."
I share this story because I know there are many of you who read my blog who live your lives with this little boy's kind of courage. This week marked eight months since my sweet sister-in-law lost her best friend and husband, my brother Bart. I know how hard it is for her to carry on each day without Bart's warm sunshine in her world, but she's doing it, and she's doing it with great determination and a lot of courageous smiles. Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the death of my friend Shelly's precious mom. Patricia Kay Bickmore Christensen was a strong force behind everything bright and beautiful in so many people's worlds and I know Shelly must miss her keenly, but there is never a phone call to or from Shelly that won't leave you feeling happy and grateful to be alive. Another girlfriend lost her husband last year and then discovered that their entire retirement had evaporated in the Bernie Madolf scandal. Among you are mothers who have lost their children. Sisters who have lost beloved brothers. You all march on each day, doing good, blessing lives, being courageous in your own needed ways. I want you all to know that you give me courage. I think it's important for you to know that who you are, and the courageous way you are handling the challenges in your worlds, gives me, and gives others, the courage to handle the hard things in our lives. I want you all to remember that you are heroes. And I want to thank you for that.