Courage and Compassion

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by Melissa J. Johnson, Ph.D.

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow.”

~Mary Anne Radmacher

I’ve been seeing a lot of courage these days! I’m guessing you have too.  The courage of our health care and other front line workers. Food preparation and delivery people; really, everyone in our food supply chains. The folks who keep our community infrastructure  alive and well for all of us. This week during our team mindfulness practice, garbage collection was happening in the background, audible on our shared screens. My first awareness was “oh, noise.” Then, noticing “unpleasant noise.” Then, unexpectedly I felt my heart burst wide open with gratitude and compassion.  There are very brave people out there, risking their lives to collect and dispose of our garbage! And then there is the bravery of our everyday.

In our everyday, sometimes it takes courage to take a breath, rather than to react in a familiar too quick, too harsh way. Sometimes it takes courage to try something new – and believe me, it seems we’re all trying multiple new things every day. At first glance. sometimes courage doesn’t look like courage. Sometimes it looks like asking for help. Sometimes it looks like compassion. That’s right. When I tell the story of courage in my mind, courage is best friends with compassion. Courage and compassion are happiest when they hang out together. Its one of the things I love about these words from Mary Anne Radmacher – the gentle embrace of kind words, encouraging words, reminding us all that courage does not always roar. Let’s be gentle with ourselves. Notice the brave things you do, no matter how small. Notice the bold things our children do, no matter how seemingly inconsequential. Notice with gratitude the courage of others. And let compassion and courage hang out together (no social distancing required). The words you overhear as they play may sound like:

Dear one, this is a hard time.

I’m doing my best.

I can ask for help.

I will try again tomorrow.