Sunday’s Denver Post ran a cover story about female genital mutilation. The article featured a 43-year-old woman from the Ivory Coast who was cut at 11 and a 26-year-old from Guinea duped and then defiled at eight. I’m very culturally tolerant, yet this type of depravity leaves me, a writer, beyond words. What struck me most about the piece was the survivors’ courage to escape their past and renew themselves through a radical reconstructive surgery performed by one very extraordinary doctor.
Courage has many faces, and I’ve been thinking about them ever since reading this story. Courage is my new friend, Liz Holzemer, who was diagnosed with a meningioma brain tumor in 2000, underwent extensive treatment, wrote a book about her experience, Curveball: When Life Throws You a Brain Tumor, and founded a non-profit called Meningioma Mamas to raise awareness and funds for this common cancer affecting women. Courage is my closest high school friend, a pediatrician, who is battling a very serious brain tumor. Years and states separate us, but I’m lifting her up in my prayers along with her two children and husband. Courage is my friend in Denver, a wife and mother of three young children, who contracted Hepatitis C from a drug-addicted nurse.
Beyond illness and grief, courage is the face of a young girl who says “that’s not nice” when her peers tease her because she can’t run as fast on the playing field. She has a mild disability but doesn’t want to appear different than others. Courage is the boy who comforts a crying classmate; he sits with her alone under a tall tree.
Courage is my friend in New Jersey who is raising a baby girl from South Africa literally placed in her arms. “Take her,” the child’s grandmother said, “you can give her a better life.”
Courage, I believe, is having the pluck to face your fears, the grace to make unpopular decisions and the bravery to live your dreams.
I’m not sure how these seeds of valor are sown. But we all have them, this I know for sure.