The youngest heroes
It is certainly no secret that the past couple of years have been exceptionally difficult for me, so much so that it is tempting to give in to the almost overwhelming feelings of pain and despair. The author of one of the two articles I am sharing here summarized my own thoughts quite well. "How many of us face long odds and struggle with hardship, sickness and despair?" he wrote. "Who hasn't been tempted to surrender to the thought that the hate and pain and sorrow of this life are too great to endure?" Perhaps every thoughtful person wonders about that from time to time, especially during middle age.
As tempting as that has been, however, I haven't quite done it yet. I do count myself to have been remarkably fortunate in the friendships I have had over the years, and my support network has been helpful to me during this time. My dance instructor has been especially so. She is perhaps the bravest young woman I have ever known, and what she is teaching me about life in general, and how to find joy amid struggle and pain, is far more important than her more formal lessons on the foxtrot, rumba, and West Coast swing. I look at her and think that if she faced her own odds and accomplished what she did, then perhaps I can, too. Not long ago I told her that although she had some help along the way, she had done more than anyone else to shepherd me through an especially dangerous passage in my life's journey, and that I knew I would always owe her for that. Her example of courage and nobility has inspired me far more than I think she will ever know.
Those, of course, are two of the human virtues I most admire, and seeing them displayed from time to time is a big part of what, in the end, makes this life worthwhile in spite of its sorrows. Two other examples are shared here. A couple of days ago I sent an e-mail link to this article to my friend Michelle, and told her it was one of the most inspiring stories I had ever read. It was written by columnist Bob Greene nearly nine years ago, and in all the years since, I don't know how many times I have read it myself or shared it with the most important people in my life. The morning after I sent this link to Michelle, I sent it to a few of my co-workers, and I hope that someone else in need of inspiration and encouragement will now find it here.
This must have been my week for finding inspiring stories, because only hours after I sent that e-mail to Michelle, I found an even better story in that day's edition of the same website. It was this, which I eagerly commend to what few readers I have. But I suggest keeping a Kleenex handy when you read it. The prophet Isaiah would perhaps have loved this story; he, after all, was the one who wrote the inspired prediction that "a little child [would] lead them."