Dear Everyday Heroes, Thank You for Giving Us Hope in Ourselves…
As I flicked my thumb to propel my Facebook feed forward, an image halted my scroll. Tessie Smith, hero and local paramedic involved in a horrific wreck while responding to a call in March, was ascending the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston. To honor the fallen first responders of 9/11. In another clip, she was ringing the bell at the crest of the climb.
All the tears. Every last one of them.
Overcomers always win my heart. Because they wreck me with their stubborn courage. My heroes are scrappy, uncelebrated people. Marginalized people. People whose smile cost more than yours and mine. Resolute people.
We are wretchedly spoiled in the land of opportunity. Luxury has been assimilated into our DNA as an adaptive trait. A slow internet connection, an antique IPhone model, a town without a Starbucks or Target and we are crying injustice. But we were crafted from sterner stuff. Less whiny stuff.
In the raw fabric of our composition we were made to scrape out a living in severe circumstances. To invite a fire out of nothing. To hustle a meal with our own dirty hands. We were made for work that required every calorie we consumed and then some. We were made to lay our heads down with bodies wrung dry by physical exhaustion. We were made with strong backs and an even stronger spirit of survival.
The life we now live is incongruent with how we were assembled.
I’m not complaining. I’m currently nursing a heavenly coffee drink, swaddled in a comfy blanket, sitting on my derriere, pecking away while the more primitive me would be out gathering roots for dinner.
But there are consequences to our plum living. Obesity. Anxiety. Entitlement. Isolation. Purposelessness. Vanity. Injurious ambition. Sometimes I really do wonder if we have traded up. We have become a frightfully vacuous people. Which is why we are so stirred by underdogs. Overcomers. Heroes. They demonstrate an ancient strength that reverberates deep in our bones and stings our eyes.
This was powerfully on display in my area during the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. I could weep right this second thinking about all the linemen – many from far away states – working to rehab our crippled city. The police, the firemen, the National Guard, the EMTs. The beautiful others helping with tree removal, food, and water.
They exhibit the finer things in us. Heroes remind us that when suffering slices through the insulation of convenience in our lives the indomitable human spirit is exposed. They rise to the challenge of adversity and allow us to see with our very own eyes what we hope is within us. We all wonder what we are made of, don’t we?
They give us hope in ourselves.
To some extent, it is this thing that draws me to jail. As I share smiles and hugs and tears with the female inmates, the resilience of the soul is baffling and brilliant. As the team and I enter behind heavy, locking doors, we step into a concentration of hurt. Abuse of every sort. Loss. Abandonment. Destructive cycles. Emotional negligence. Egregious crimes. The looming prospect of years in prison, yet they smile. Yet they hope. Yet they thank a God who loved them enough to save them. From themselves.
We are indeed made of sterner stuff than we imagine.
James Neil Hollingworth aptly states, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” Yes. It’s not that our heroes are impervious to fear; it’s that they aren’t deterred by it.
Hats off to you, beloved overcomers. Martyrs of our faith, thank you for inciting our conviction by your willingness to die. Ruby Bridges, thank you for your courageous six-year-old self desegregating William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1960. Veterans. Parents of medically fragile children. Moms suffering post-partum depression. Those who beat addiction and rise up out of the humblest circumstances. Cancer survivors. Widows. Children who have lost parents. Little ones who learn differently. Community servants who risk their lives. Formerly trafficked women. First generation college students. Those who are able to doggedly persist in love despite the sharp discord of the day.
We celebrate you. And your stubborn courage.
Thank you for calling us to a higher standard of fortitude and tenacity. Thank you for giving us hope in ourselves.[Images: Chuck Simmins, Liz West, bizarrellama, Tony Reily]