“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Friday, 24 July 2015

Finding the Courage

There are times in everyone's life when we feel scared, not brave enough, and want to run away and hide, from whatever situation we find ourselves in. It is certainly true of me.

This morning, a friend of mine posted a lovely reflection on Facebook, which got me thinking about what courage is, and where it might be found. He wrote:

"The special form of lovely when the result of someone believing in you, when you yourself didn't, helps you to find courage you didn't know you had."

My Concise Oxford Dictionary defines courage as "Bravery, boldness", for me this implies some form of heroism and derring-do. Like facing down a mountain lion or some other daring deed. The sort of thing that James Bond might do, as a matter of routine.

But I believe with my friend that courage can be found in some very unlikely places. In her wonderful book The Gifts of Imperfection, BrenĂ© Brown explains that "Courage originally meant 'To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart.' ...Speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we're feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage. ... Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. In today's world, that is pretty extraordinary."

"Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line."  It's about being brave enough to reach out for help; to admit that actually, we don't know; that we aren't ready for this yet; or that we're feeling rubbish. It is also about feeling the fear and doing it anyway, to quote a book title by Susan Jeffers. It can be about taking that first vital step on a new path, about moving out of your comfort zone and into the unknown. This kind of courage is the quiet sort of everyday courage, and if you start looking for it, you'll find it everywhere.

And the lovely thing is, if we can be brave enough to "speak our minds by telling all our hearts", this will often be met with empathy, understanding and support. Even perhaps relief - because sometimes when we share that we're feeling scared or inadequate in some way, it allows other people to admit their own vulnerability too.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Feeding the Passions

When Gordon Campbell's book, 'Bible: the story of the King James Version' was published to mark the quatercentenary of the KJV in 2010, I can remember looking at the hardback wistfully in Blackwells, and then remembering that I didn't buy hardbacks any more, and that I'd wait for the paperback.

And then, of course, I forgot all about it. Until I ran across it again a couple of weeks ago, and bought it on impulse. Yesterday evening, I finally got around to starting it.

There was the usual thrill of starting any new book that only fellow reading addicts will understand - the excitement of turning to the first page and starting to read, knowing that by the time you finish it, you will not be the same person you were when you started. But this was something special. Reading it feeds two passions of mine - the old enchantment around rare books and the history of printing and publishing that goes back to my Library School days, and a growing fascination with the Bible, in terms of both content and history.

I know that most people will think I am decidedly odd for getting so excited about reading an academic book. But I'm happy. Back in a few days. Bliss!

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Just Do It

The slogan of a certain sportswear company is "Just Do It". Simple and brilliant. I have always understood it in the context of pushing through physical pain to achieve a certain sporting goal.

This morning, I came across a rather different take on the "Just Do It" message, by none other than Mother Teresa:

"People are often unreasonable and self-centred. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. 
It was never between you and them anyway."

This is another kind of challenge altogether. It is a challenge to have integrity; to live our lives with authenticity. Because this is the only way we're going to grow, in any way that matters, in the long run. What a wonderful set of commandments: Forgive, Be Kind, Be Honest, Be Happy, Do Good, Give Your Best.

Nothing in there about Get On, Get Ahead, Look After Number One. These are the commandments of our society. I think I'd rather give Mother Teresa's a try, and Just Do It.