I have asked my wide-eyed 7th graders to write about courage this week with a prompt that says – “write about a time you had a lot of courage.” I am amazed in many ways. First at the stories bursting from their minds and secondly -the lack of stories coming to their mind. I’ve prompted them with examples: first dirt bike race, a recital, a sport event, or heavy hitting ones – death in family or divorce, or sickness. I do not know if it’s fear to put those hurts or ideas down in paper because it makes it too real or raw or if some of these kiddos have not had to face tough things in their life.
What is courage really? What does it look like? Courage is defined as mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. I just keep flashing back to my 7th grade year and I vividly remember Daddy coming to get me from school. His face pale; eyes glistening with tears. My mom had gone in for a simple biopsy because she found lump in her breast. Daddy just quietly said “Sugar – momma has cancer and the doctors had to take a lot of tissue from her – including her …breast and all the lymph nodes in her arm.” I remember being shocked that my daddy had said the “b” word – then it dawned on me that mom had the “c” word. She was at stage 3 – nearly 4. I did not totally understand what it meant – but I remember kneeling beside my bed that evening, in a rage of tears, begging God to not take her. I remember waking up the next morning in the floor. She did live and survived the radical mastectomy and months of cobalt treatment. The surgeon said she would likely not be able to raise her right arm up more than a few inches, but she could try this new stuff called “physical therapy” if she wanted. I still see her grit and determination as she slowly walked her fingers up the wall to gain her range of motion back. After my shoulder surgery last summer, I now know how painful that must have been because I did some of the same exercises.
Could I have written about those events when I was a scrawny, skittish seventh grader? Probably not. What do I do with my little crew – pray they receive inspiration.