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Wednesday, April 20, 2005


courage

His name was Lou, but everyone on our listserver called him LocoLou. And he was all right with that ... liked it, in fact.

I never met him, never spoke with him by phone, never saw a picture. But I can see and hear Lou in my mind nonetheless. His voice is low and gravelly. He shaves only when he can't stand his reflection. He owns a single jacket: scuffed black leather with stories attached to each mark. He favors jeans, boots and white T-shirts, barely cooked steak, and women who don't mind an occasional ride on the back of his Harley. And the heart beating under those T-shirts--despite his efforts to prove otherwise--is baby soft, tenderized by the God he met after Vietnam while in a trauma-induced state of craziness.

Lou's not crazy now. In fact, he's quite lucid. We members of the Calvary Chapel Fellowship listserver looked forward to his grizzly posts, because his words never failed to provoke thought and discussion. Sometimes they stirred memory.

For no particular reason at all, Lou wrote a post one day in which he described a trench he'd called home one long morning in Vietnam. The words he spilled onto the screen proved he could recall even now every pebble, groove and divet of that open-air coffin. He put himself there again for our benefit and filled our ears with the sounds of battle, the sounds of a nineteen-year old's heart pounding against his chest. We tasted his fear as he hunkered there trying to force his body into submission so he could obey orders, so he could pull himself out of that hole, stand tall, and advance on the enemy.

"I didn't know I had courage until I found myself flying down the face of that hill," Lou wrote. "And to this day, I can still hear the blood pulsing in my ears as I charged, just as if it were still Christmas day, 1966."

As I read Lou's words, I stood with him in that trench, pulled myself out with my own shaky arms, fortified my fear-wobbled legs and moved to take that first step down the hill. But when he wrote the date, I left him there in Vietnam. Because when I read that date, I knew I had my own hill to return to.

I was five that same Christmas day, and I'd just maneuvered my brand-new bicycle out the back door of our house and around the side gate toward the front yard. New bikes need to be seen, especially by neighbor girls who have been hah-hahing you for months with their own sparkly transportation. The only glitch to my showing-off plan came when I ran out of level front-yard grass. The last ten feet or so of our yard was a hill that led down to the street. There was no moving around that obstacle. I had two choices: I could walk my bike down the slope, or I could ride.

I've revisited that "hill" as an adult. I've driven slow circles past my old house on many occasions, trying to capture a wisp of those long ago days and the family who lived there. And I'm almost embarrassed to call that slight front-yard incline a hill. But measurement taken by adult eyes differs greatly from that of a child's eyes. To my five-year old way of thinking, that slight incline was Mount Challenge.

I almost walked the bike down. Almost. But I sensed that a defining moment had presented itself. I could ride off down the street a little girl, or I could ride off down the street a big girl. And no one but me would know the difference.

I like to think Lou and I conquered our hills at exactly the same moment on that December day. I like to believe that my leg swung up and over my bike seat at the same moment Lou swung his leg up and over the edge of his trench. I like to believe our hearts pounded in tandem and we rode the wind together as we flew past fear.

Here's to courage--and the wars it wins. Here's to our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. And here's to all of you standing on the precipice of your own personal hilltop, gathering strength to charge. Whatever mountain you face today, don't give up. Fight the urge to retreat, for victory is closer than you think.

You'll find it just on the other side of the hill.

Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow." ~ Mary Anne Rademacher-Hershey

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10 Comment:

At 4/20/2005 10:22 AM, Blogger ddddddddddddddddddddd had this to say ...

I have got to stop visiting here while at work. You bring tears to my eyes every single day. Not sad tears but heartfelt, from the heart of compassion, love and faith. You make me so happy that we met. Hugs.

 
At 4/20/2005 10:47 AM, Blogger HerWryness had this to say ...

Beautiful tribute. My heart is still pounding.

 
At 4/20/2005 10:54 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Thanks, Robin and Joe. And Joe, I feel the same. :)

 
At 4/20/2005 12:39 PM, Blogger Jennifer had this to say ...

I needed this today. Thank you.

 
At 4/20/2005 11:59 PM, Blogger Kim had this to say ...

Excellent, excellent post! So, when are you going to write a book? ;) Hehe, just kidding.

Btw, Mike and I were just talking about this the other day: "But measurement taken by adult eyes differs greatly from that of a child's eyes." So true!

 
At 4/21/2005 5:00 AM, Blogger Monica had this to say ...

As the mom of a young man who went to war in Iraq at nineteen, your post literally hit home here. He doesn't share the stories with his mom but his friends have told me of the 36 hr patrols (he was there when it first started) and the day of the ambush in the alley when the woman screamed and they tried to rescue her. His commander was wounded. They were suppose to stay covered but my son and his best friend grabbed their commander and got him out of there. The commander got a medical discharge and still stays in contact with our family checking on my son. They really do bond for life in a war zone.

 
At 4/21/2005 5:03 AM, Blogger Monica had this to say ...

Sorry to be long-winded today, Shannon, but the part about the little girl you reminded me of Julia and her big hill this past couple of weeks. I really love your writing and when my new blog look happens at the end of the month I'll be adding your blog to my links if you don't mind.

 
At 4/21/2005 5:10 AM, Blogger ddddddddddddddddddddd had this to say ...

Shannon, yesterday was one of those days, where He wasn't just whispering to me, he was talking very clearly. I woke up grumpy, but didn't stay that way, because of my "kid sister" (see yesterday's post)then I made that post yesterday and ended with a seize the day attitude. THEN I read your post and just knew it was going to be one of those days. AND...... I went over my Hill and found my courage and I did it ! ! ! I SANG last night. You have to read the rest at today's posting, but THANK YOU !!! for helping Him talk to me. Hugs...

 
At 4/21/2005 6:20 PM, Blogger Macromoments had this to say ...

Shannon, your writing stirs all kinds of emotions and memories. God has gifted you in a way I don't often see. I hope you write a book of recollections like this sometime. I'll help you brainstorm a title! All you have to do is the writing. :-P

Thanks for lending some perspective to my day. God bless you. Bonnie

 
At 4/22/2005 10:44 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Oh, Bonnie, I don't know what to say ... except thank you, and yes! Help me come up with a book title. :) I'm sending off my manuscript this afternoon and I'm already thinking ahead to the next book, so I'll take all your suggestions.

Your comments mean a great deal to me because I have such respect for your writing. I haven't had a lot of time for visiting, but whenever I do get over to your blog, your posts bless and encourage me. Thank you!


Monica, I did think of you while writing this post. Your writing has put many of us right in the shoes of a soldier's mother. You've done an excellent job of helping us sympathize with you.


Joe, I loved hearing about your big leap! Good job. :)

 

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