Courage is NOT like a Lion

What quarantine taught me about courage and being brave.

I’ve always associated courage with a lion. Probably because of the stories we’re told where the bravest of all characters is a lion. Here’s a few that come immediately to mind (just in case you can’t recall):

- Harry Potter and the Gryffindors (remember, Gryffindors were courageous)

- The Wizard of Oz, that poor, cowardly lion wanted to find his courage so he could find the will to be brave

- The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe, the lion, Alsan was so brave he gave up his own life for the good of all.

Maybe you can come up with more examples. I’ve thought a lot about courage in quarantine, about how we conceive it and how that perception is holding us back from being truly courageous. Let me illustrate.

At the start of the pandemic (literally, the day our governor here in Ohio put the entire state on lock down), I was in the ER with a little boy who had pneumonia – whose tests for everything except COVID-19 kept coming back negative. The doctors and nurses taking care of us were visibly nervous. One nurse yelled at me as we entered the hospital, because I couldn’t keep that two year old constrained enough to wear a mask (that’s for another story).

As my son struggled to catch his breath and we waited almost six hours in a solitary room, I found a tiny scrap of courage. I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry, to call somebody and regurgitate out the fear. Instead, I pulled out my phone. We watched Super Mario Brothers on YouTube. We traced animals in the sheets and practiced hugs, kisses, and words. I smiled at him instead of crying. I rubbed his little back as he clung to me and gasped for air, thanking the Lord for each breath coming in and out. I prayed.

The doctor prescribed us an antibiotic and we were on our way. The little boy got better after a few restless nights. We settled into quarantine and started baking bread like everyone else.

And then, the real work of courage began. We started managing homeschooling and work and cleaning and Zoom calls and all the rest of it. Grateful, of course for everything we had, but struggling just the same. That same little boy spent his second birthday at home, friends and family singing “Happy Birthday” via Zoom. Our 6-year-old quickly began hating homework. Clients and students needed us. Everyone seemed to dealing with their own hardships as we collectively waited for the world to resume.

I yelled at my family way more than I want to admit. My usual strategies for positivity started failing. Even my workaholic “busyness” (I’m an Ennegram 3) failed me. I read the news and checked my phone constantly; it seemed like the world was diving deeper and deeper into chaos. The lack of compassion on social media was staggering. And every day I moved closer to giving up, to giving in to depression, anxiety, and deep sadness.

Circumstances did not provide lion moments. I roared, just not in the brave ways I admired. The villain in my story was a sneaky virus personified in the pizza delivery man who might be a carrier. Lion courage had no place here, but tiny little brave acts did.

I bought a mask with a funny saying on it (Girl, please I’m from Youngstown) and smiled big underneath it when people caught sight of it and laughed. I made the kids start each day with a dance party. Dessert became a nightly ritual we all looked forward to. Lots of TV was watched and messes were made without fear of clean up.

And on the days when I failed – when the news dropped me into despair - I whispered to myself – just try again tomorrow; tomorrow you can be better. That my friends, is courage and you have enough of it in you to keep going. Those baby acts, the call for help, promising yourself to just do better tomorrow? Those acts lead to profound change. Be brave today, friends - the world needs your light.