We are stronger than we think we are.
Remember the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz? He is my favorite character in the movie, not because he is frightened, but because he acknowledges that he is frightened. I love the way he strokes his tail as he talks about his fears. I love the fact that he runs down that long hallway at the Emerald City palace after facing the intimidating head and flames of the Great Oz. I love that he did exactly what most of us would have done, and there was an outline of him in the broken window to prove it.
I’ve heard people described as fearless, but I don’t believe it. To me, someone who is fearless is sociopathic and should be avoided at all cost.
Those of us who feel tremendous fear but move ahead anyway, we are the warriors. We look into the eyes of something that scares us until we tame it.
We stand and shake with fear until we can shake our fear.
I remember the first time I shook with fear . . .
I decided that I didn’t like my fourth grade teacher. He scared me. I spent weeks terrified that he would call on me to do math on the front board. Looking back, I think I was more afraid of math than him.
But the fear was all-consuming. So, one day I asked for an office pass and walked down to the Principal’s office. Our Principal’s name was Mr. Graves, and he looked huge to a tiny fourth grader. He had a flat top and carried toy pistols around his waist all the time, the purpose of which I never did figure out. He pulled bad boys out of class and paddled them with a piece of wood that contained holes for a better swat. He always had three cases of Pepsi in his office.
This man was big and armed and hopped up on sugar. But I asked to see him, and stood outside his office with my little knobby knees knocking.
“Come on in, Donna,” he said. I could just see the Oz-like flames leaping around his flap-top. “How can I help you?”
My voice shook, but I replied, “Mr. Graves, I am in Mr. Iverson’s class. And he’s very nice. But I have prayed about it and God doesn’t want me in this class anymore. God wants me to be in Miss Hart’s class please.”
“Well, Donna, why do you think God told you that?” he asked.
“Because when Mr. Iverson talks to me I see black spots,” I replied. And that was absolutely true.
Mr. Graves smiled at me and escorted me back to class. A week later I was transferred out of Mr. Iverson’s class.
I faced Oz, and it wasn’t so bad . . .
I think I combined cowardice and courage in one interaction. I don’t know if leaving Mr. Iverson’s class was cowardly, but I do know that facing Mr. Graves took incredible courage. I was a fourth-grade warrior.
We all know the power of knocking knees. We have experienced the desperate desire to run down a hallway and exit through a window.
We’ve all told somebody we love them only to have them struggle in their response to us. We’ve gotten on planes and white-knuckled it to our destination. We have been in front of doctors waiting for news that could change our lives forever.
We do it because we have a warrior within us . . .
Our warrior shows up when we stand up to a deceitful coworker, or help a stranger, or make that presentation, or go up the down staircase in a tower that is tumbling.
The power is within us, even though we are sometimes reluctant warriors who change classes or run down a hallway.
There are powerful moments when we stand, trembling, in front of our own Oz and let the courage come.
And, for a moment, we remember that we have been a warrior all along.