Friday, April 27, 2012


I have witnessed many acts of heroism in my life. Generally, they aren’t the variety that makes the news, that wins medals or that is even generally known. The heroism I’m talking about is the everyday, garden variety of heroism that pits a person against life’s intransigence.

I’m thinking of friends who have enormous courage in the face of painful and exhausting disabilities. Of parents who work hard to supply their children not only with material necessities and comforts but with a model of human decency, creativity and dignity. Of men and women who do their jobs with pride, intelligence and integrity. Of community volunteers who give their time, expertise and compassion freely. Of people who have the courage to forgive, to grow beyond their own narrow hurts and prejudices, to rise up and be fully human.

These days everyone is feeling the pressure of faulty systems going awry, of financial and political malfeasance, of job insecurity, infrastructure failure, environmental degradation and general insecurity. Yet, while many demonstrate the worst of human failings, I am moved by the steadfastness of average people in living their lives with honesty, courage, dignity, hope, compassion and love. Perhaps no other poem expresses so well this admirable stance in the face of life’s vicissitudes, as does this one:

Invictus (Unconquered)

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
-- William Ernest Henley

On this Friday, when we celebrate the end of the work week and the beginning of the weekend, let’s also celebrate ourselves, our neighbors and friends and, as my mother used to say, all our friends who we don’t even know, for the courage we all are showing in the face of what appears to be overwhelming evil. If you are refusing to drink from the cup of hatred, greed and bigotry that is being passed; if you're carrying on honorably despite your fears or misgivings; you're a hero in my eyes. Let's all take a deep breath and stand a little straighter. We are unbowed. We are the unshakable foundation and future of the world.

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