When I was a child, we had a mind game we played repeatedly, always with the same results. The question? Would you rather be a live coward or a dead hero? The reality of life had not yet reached us as we always pronounced proudly and with a smug face, A Dead Hero. I doubt that many of my childhood friends would make the same retort if playing today.
Yet, my world is filled with live heroes (I have my own interpretation of that game) every day. Every time I receive an email from someone who has just entered recovery from child sexual abuse I give them silent applause. Every time I read something on Facebook that another survivor has shared with our reading audience, I pass a prayer on to them that they may succeed with their healing journey. People of courage populate our world in the millions: soldiers, single parents, people dying of some disease for which there is no cure, and many other battles they have begun. They take that first step, only to realize there is a step waiting beyond and another and another. Some are small steps, like learning how to drive a car or filling out an application for admission to college. Others are not, like donating a kidney to a beloved brother. They all stem from the same belief system.
Webster has many definitions for the word “courage”. To me it is simple: Doing that which is difficult but needs doing to make our world a better place. I have a son who is working in Afghanistan as a mentor for their Police Force. He has seen things I don’t even want to think about. He has had to live in difficult situations, handling difficult people. He has had to limit time spent with his own family so that he can support them. Before this, he was a United States Marine and then an officer on the LAPD. In 1998, he was Officer of the Year.
I have three daughters. One has 16 years of sobriety with AA. She made the decision to go into Sierra Tucson for treatment for 30 days the night after she received her second Emmy Award for the television show ER. Today she spends many hours out of her busy life helping other Twelve Steppers. My second daughter travels to Thailand every year to work, at her own expense, as a Medical Missionary for the refugees from Burma. The first year she did this she said she couldn’t believe that she wouldn’t discover her true purpose in life until in her forties. She has traveled to Mexico to work with children in an orphanage. She brought chickens to them one year and showed them how to build chicken pens and explain how they will have eggs every morning. My youngest daughter at the age of 17 was raped at gunpoint by a masked man while she worked at a fast food. She told me later that she knew she was dead and so she left her body while the rape was happening. Today, despite originally heading in a different career direction, she is a Registered Nurse working in an ER Department at a local hospital. She thought later about how the nurses had treated her at the hospital. They were insensitive and discussing their dates while my daughter waited for treatment when the police and I took her to ER. She wanted to make sure that no one under her care would ever have to go through such treatment. Many years later, her son, at the age of 25 lost his life in a motorcycle accident. How does a mother survive such grief? With great courage.
What great courage so many have had to face on this journey we call life. Courage builds on itself. You never know how much you have until you need to use it. I want to salute, to congratulate everyone I know who is facing recovery from child sexual abuse. They are the bravest of the brave. They have had to take a childhood trauma, turn it into a healing journey and use it to reach out and help others. I am so proud to have so many in my life who are a part of this army of abused children and are struggling to change their lives for the better.