Courage Comes in Many Guises

Yesterday, I went bowling with a group from my church. Now, I make absolutely no claims to greatness. In fact, when asked if I was interested, I think I only said that I did bowl, not that I bowled well.

I lived up to my own reputation for ungreatness. I finished my first game with a 34. I thought, “Oh, next time will be better–maybe I’ve just got to get warmed up.”

Oh, it wasn’t, though. My second game earned me a whopping total of 7.

In jest, I said that I would tell people I got four strikes in a row–just wouldn’t tell them how long it took me to get them, or that they were “broken” strikes.

But really, what’s the point of my going bowling with a bunch of people? It was to have fun, and I definitely did that. I think it was more frustrating for the people who were so graciously (or mercifully?) giving me suggestions to try and make me better.

But really, it was a lot of fun. If I want to demonstrate publicly that I’m good at something, I’ll walk up to a piano. In that realm, I’m great, and I’m getting better.

This morning, I got a certificate for being “Bowler of the Day”. Everyone thought that was great. Me, I turned really red. Mention was made of my “courage”.

At first, I thought, “Oh, come on! How much courage does it take to go somewhere and pay money to eat really greasy pizza, wear hideous shoes, and throw a ball that weighs more than some newborn children?”

I was just about ready to dismiss the whole thing as sappy–hey, let’s give the blind lady an award!–and then I stopped myself.

To me, it’s not “courage” at all. I do all kinds of things every day. (I came home after church and vacuumed my house, and I’ll take out the trash later, plus write an article, practice a Beethoven concerto, feed my dogs … you know, typical Sunday or every day stuff.)

“Courage” is a sort of catch-all word. It’s what people call it when you do things they don’t think they could do if they were in your situation. So, for most people, doing lots of things without looking seems really scary and close to impossible.

It’s not, and I spend plenty of energy convincing people that it’s not. Many folks learn this, but many more don’t. Still, even if they come to accept that I, or anyone else with a disability, can do things they don’t think they’d be able to manage, “courage” is the word that gets used to describe what pushes us to do them anyway.

To a majority of people in my church, who only see me on Sunday mornings playing piano, the idea of my bowling, or flying cross-country with my guide dog, or cooking–all those things just seem too big, and they can’t get their minds around them.

But, little by little, they’re all learning. Whether I’m helping carry chairs from one room to another, bringing dishes to potluck suppers, or any number of other tasks, they’ll figure out that most of those things are no big deal to me. They’ll stop being a big deal to them, too, and there won’t be any more certificates for courageous bowling.

That’s fine with me. Mark Twain once said: “On the whole, it is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.” To me, there are plenty of other things more courageous than a blind person bowling. Save the accolades for the soldiers fighting overseas, the police who work on some of our most dangerous streets, the people facing daily struggles with the pain, loneliness and heartache caused by lifelong illness or family disintegration.

We all have to have courage at some point in our life. Courage doesn’t mean we lack fear. It simply means that, faced with a situation that induces fear either in us or in others, we find it within ourselves to keep moving forward. We refuse to let doubt or others’ misunderstandings limit what we choose to accomplish.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Blindness, Family and Friends, music, psychology, Sports

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