by Dr Angel Adams, Dr Patricia Papciak
“When you pray for courage, do you think God gives you courage, or the chance to be courageous?”
– From the film “Evan Almighty”
For some people it takes a lot of courage to get up in the morning. It takes courage to try and just survive through another day. I am sure you can think of many people and circumstances in your mind’s eye right now that fit that image — from a neighbour down the street to someone on the other side of the world. It’s almost impossible to fathom where that person can find such enormous amounts of courage.
Some mornings when we awake, we can see right away that it is going to be an amazingly clear and spectacular day. The sun hasn’t risen yet, but we know it’s going to. We can see the light and the lack of clouds in the sky. We can hear a few birds, apparently happy that their nesting isn’t going to be interrupted by weather conditions. Yet, we don’t feel so good—we don’t feel like jumping out of bed and chirping away while we are doing our nesting chores.
There are days that we arise with joy. It is just there inside us and we look forward to meeting the day even if we see only clouds or rain. There is a sense of well being and excitement is in the air. We can see the beauty of life and the potential of the day. Seeing a film like Slumdog Millionaire makes us feel like we need never be ungrateful again. We see “Sam” the koala bear who was badly burned but survived though the raging fires in Australia last month, and we feel lucky and blessed. But only for a few moments, a few hours, or a few days, and then another morning comes along and that old ennui is right back on our shoulders again!
We all have these days. You may be thinking right now about how you felt the same this morning or yesterday morning or last week. You may be dreading certain things and end up avoiding doing them. Fear and procrastination can certainly cause one to feel even more stress, even though there is a temporary relief in one’s comfort zone. No matter what your economic status is or how physically attractive you are, life does not let you escape the ups and downs. How do you stay motivated on the days you don’t feel so good and hold on to that healthy perspective when life is beautiful? How do you set this example day after day for your children?
We would like to suggest two important ways to approach those difficult days when searching for courage. But first a story. A friend of ours was going to university years ago, and was taking a fencing class. The teacher was a rather attractive older man who had been on the Hungarian Olympic fencing team previously. He was patient with the students, and everyone enjoyed the class. If you have ever put on the attire for fencing, you know that it in itself can be humorous. One day this friend arrived at class, and she wasn’t happy. She had had some personal upset that was off-setting her emotionally. The usually very patient teacher responded, “Oh, go out and run around the street twice”, he said, “you won’t remember what you were unhappy about, and you’ll be too tired to worry about it.”
The young woman was somewhat offended by his flippant attitude; She was in PAIN. Yet she had bothered to attend the class, and decided to be persistent. She started struggling with putting on her attire and then lunged and parried and got through the class. At the end of the class the teacher came up to her and said, “Do you feel better? You know, there’s nothing like a little physical exercise when you don’t feel good emotionally. She never forgot that experience, and it’s a good story to think about the importance of physical exercise.
Hence, the first tip for the doldrums or when you or your children are distressed is to get your body moving. Motion can change your e-motion. Some examples could be putting on your yoga, dance or Tai Chi DVD. You could also say to your child, “Shall we go for a walk?”, or “Shall we go to the gym or leisure centre?” Or “Why don’t you call a friend and see if you can go kick a ball in the park?”. Do something physical! Exercise is definitely a mood enhancer and stimulates the release of endorphins which we need to boost our sense of courage again.
The second tip is to read something uplifting to keep you inspired and help you find the will to be courageous. Reading can be so important, both for you and your children. We are all interested in reading different kinds of things. Find a philosopher or a poet or an historian whose words can help you. Your children might be interested in something different than you. Sometimes children only like pictures or rhyming stories, but often they are attracted to the ideas. Notice what your child wants to read.
Our example of courage is a few verses from a poem by Maya Angelou, called Still I Rise.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
© Maya Angelou, 1978.
Maya Angelou is talking to all men and women everywhere about the pain they feel and what they must overcome to awake “Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear.” We all want our lives to be clear, and we want the lives of our children to be clear. Although it is difficult to see clearly at times when emotional issues blur our vision, we must find a way to focus our courage to help us rise to meet whatever it is that holds us back by diminishing our fear.
Maya Angelou is a wonderful example of a person with courage. If you have ever heard her talk on the radio or TV you can hear the courage in her voice and the resilience in her laughter. As a child she was the victim of racism and sexual abuse, but she rose above her circumstances (she was mute for 5 years in childhood) to achieve a powerful voice by writing elegant, beautiful clear poetry and prose that surpasses many. She wrote a book about her childhood called Why the Caged Bird Sings, which was taken from the title of another poem by Paul Lawrence Dunbar:
I KNOW what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opens,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals,
I know what the caged bird feels!
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings
I know why the caged bird sings!
Dunbar was Maya Angelou’s hero and she wrote:
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
Her poem reflects that the caged bird is still free because its heart sings of freedom.
We don’t usually consider that it is often from the actions of our favorite heroes and heroines in literature that we have our own ideas of how to live. When asked, we usually have people in our lives that we’ve admired and who have influenced the way we want to live our own lives. Young people have not usually lived long enough to have these resources to consider when they are confronted with problems. Reading with your children, and pointing out to them the struggles of the characters in the stories, helps young people to see that everyone has problems and everyone must find ways to solve those problems in their lives. If children don’t feel so isolated with their issues, it is easier for them to cope.
For girls there are two books by Frances Hodgson Burnett which portray children who suffer greatly in their childhoods from abandonment issues. In The Little Princess we see a girl who had everything and lost it all only to find ways to cope with her new situation. In The Secret Garden not only do we have a girl who is abandoned by her family, but two boys who feel isolated in their world. They create a world of their own to cope with their problems. You may feel that your child will want something that is more modern, that they can easily relate to. The Harry Potter series can be viewed from the position of the challenges that the children confront and how they handle those problems.
If your child likes animals, perhaps reading stories of animals who suffer before they find happy lives is a good way to approach discussing problems. These kinds of readings are also helpful because they help us get outside ourselves and focus on the problems of others. A couple of traditional stories that most children love are Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, or Old Yeller by Fred Gipson. Or for today you can watch this inspiring video below with your child about a brave koala bear and see how important it is to have support and affection when you are faced with times you need to be courageous. Finally, if there is something important you need to do, we suggest that despite your fear, you find your courage and do it! don’t forget to accept love and support from others when you do it!
Loving Bob Supports Sam at the Shelter
Thanks for taking the time to read this Monday’s Motivational article.
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