Do You Ever Feel Afraid?
Last summer, I went for a walk in the valley by my house, and I saw a little boy on his bike.
He was hesitating at the top of the hill, afraid to ride down.
To me, that “hill” was just a gentle slope, but to the child, it was big and scary. His mom leaned over, encouraging him to keep going. But he wasn’t so sure.
When I witnessed that scene, it brought me right back to a time when I, as a child of a similar age, hesitated at the top of a hill.
I sat on my bike, looking down the steep hill in front of me. The hill directly faced the lake, so I’d have to make a sharp turn at the bottom in order to avoid riding straight into the inky, deep water.
Finally, I decided to give it a go.
I started out slowly but as I picked up speed, fear took over. I lost my nerve and toppled over, badly skinning my knees.
Not only did I hurt myself, I felt embarrassed. Even worse, ashamed. To this day that memory conjures up a disproportionate level of discomfort.
I guess I thought I shouldn’t be afraid.
In all honesty, I feel a little bit scared a lot of the time. More than I’d like.
Take publishing my latest book. The process awakened small daily doses of fear in me, as it required me to do something every day that I found at least a little bit scary. Between the publishing and promotion, those tiny prickles of fear became a regular occurance.
I started to notice a pattern. While my body told me I was afraid, my brain told me I shouldn’t be.
“Stop being so afraid,” it said, plainly.
That would be nice, wouldn’t it? No hesitation, no skinned knees? Nice.
Of course, without fear, we wouldn’t have courage.
And without courage, there’d be no bravery.
When I think about it, maybe I did the right thing by falling off my bike that day. After all, skinned knees are better that drowning.
And starting down the hill is better than turning and riding away.
After I saw that boy on his bike, I came home, and I wrote something in honour of him that I’d like to share with you.
Here it goes:
It won’t be the last time that you hesitate here. It won’t be the last hill, the last hurdle, the last time you’re afraid or you wonder if you can do it.
There’s going to be lots of them.
Life will require bravery. And sometimes you’ll take the chance, and go for it, and sometimes you won’t. Sometimes it will be smarter to take the safe road. But sometimes — lots of times — it will be worth it to ride down anyway. So I hope you’ll do it.
Because bravery is where the best stuff is.
I have one final message on the subject of bravery. It’s a poem, from my latest book, Little Poems for Big Hearts.
I wrote this poem to myself years ago when I needed all the courage I could muster. Now, I’d like to share it with you.