You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' Eleanor Roosevelt
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There are times in Fairbanks when you can feel fear in the air. Monday Marsha and I had different responses to fear. There was a person in the roof of our building in a crisis. I had been out to lunch and I decided that since I was locked out of our building I would just take a drive and work elsewhere. I didn’t want to witness death. I couldn’t really stand the suspense. Marsha on the other hand became one of the helpers and stood with police. She was calling him to safety with her presence. Maybe with her motions too, I can’t be sure. Thankfully with my prayers and yours, the first responders and Marsha got him to safety.
Every morning I put on a bracelet that says, “Be Brave.” I bought it when I started telling the story of my foster son’s suicide, I put it on every day when my mom was in ICU, it was lost for a while and then I found it when it seemed everything in my life was falling apart. It reminds me that courage looks fear in the face; it gets out of bed and faces the uncertainty of the day. I can say with confidence “I am brave!” because I am a survivor.
We moved up in the hills a few years back and I was terrified of coming downhill due to an accident when I was a kid. I can remember stopping at the stop sign at the corner gathering my courage to make the descent, my heart would be pounding and my palms sweaty. When I reached the bottom of the hill I would breathe again and hope that I only had to do that trip once a day. After facing my fear for what seemed like years I can now fly down the hill without a care, unless it’s sheer ice and sometimes it is sheer ice.
Driving with my son used to terrify me, we had a little code because he doesn’t like me to gasp, yell or tell him how to drive. If I am afraid, I gently put my hand on his. It is just a little reminder that he’s going too fast or otherwise causing me to panic without distracting him from the task at hand.
A new friend of mine described to me the feelings of fear getting out of prison, all of the firsts: being reunited with family, going to the store for the first time, going back to school, looking for work, finding a place to live. Because of the support he chose including reentry case management, he is still sober and not returning to his former way of life. That choice began the day he was incarcerated and continues everyday as he owns his past and has hope for the future. This kind of courage needs to be celebrated.
The point of these ramblings is that in the face of fear we shouldn’t run away, hide or scream. Instead, we should try again, be a helper and be gentle or fierce as the case demands. We should also stand witness to the incredible courage of first responders, counselors and returning citizens who everyday look fear in the face. You all have my admiration. If you feel my hand reach out to yours today don’t let me distract you from the task at hand, rather let my presence reassure you that we are in this together.