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January 16, 2014

“You’re so brave…”

I hear it all the time. (Bow, bow, humble nod)

Here’s the scenario: It’s 15 degrees out and I’m walking over snow-salt-ice-slush and I meet someone bundled up like an Eskimo. I am in a coat, sweater, and pants: they look like they’re wearing half their wardrobe and three pairs of socks inside their fur-lined boots. Our eyes meet as I approach the store. I look away because I can tell by the look in their eyes what they’re going to say…

“I don’t know how you do it, barefoot in this cold… you’re so brave…”

I usually smile and nod or make some kind of inane remark and keep going.

But I always think someone missed the day they were defining “bravery” in school.

“Bravery” is the fire fighter who rescues a child from a burning building.

“Bravery” is the nursing home staffer who braves the blizzard to get to work because she knows others can’t make it in.

“Bravery” is the Christian who still says their prayers in nations where faith is persecuted or outlawed.

“Bravery” is the teacher who risks breaking the rules to provide Christmas for children in her school who may have to go without.

“Bravery” is someone with a handicap or disabling condition who gets up daily and leads a fulfilling life without flinching or complaining.

By comparison, going barefoot in the snow is really foolish. It doesn’t stop me – I’ve been foolish before and likely will be again sometime.

I think we need to rediscover what bravery really is. Like many other character traits, bravery seems stronger in some than in others. How many times have we seen or read about someone who has done a heroic deed, only to read their response, “I was just doing what anyone else would do under the circumstances?”

I wouldn’t. I would like to, but I don’t know that I would. I’ve lived in Roann for 17 years and have yet to even think about joining the volunteer fire department. I was unable to get to work in last week’s blizzard. I pray freely in a country that protects my freedom to do so. I help out people doing charitable work but I don’t know how much I actually do.

I am a barefooter because I am weak. I have a hip that gives me trouble when I wear shoes. In the nine years I’ve gone without (most of the time) I have walked in many different places and on many different surfaces. But I prefer the grass or the cool water or a smooth sandy beach. I walk on hot and cold sidewalks, but I don’t seek them out. Why not? Because underneath it all, I’m weak.

I’m just doing what we’re made to do: walk without shoes. People who are brave go beyond what they’re made to do and risk themselves for the benefit of others.

My hope is that the next time someone sees me walking barefoot on the ice or in the snow, they would think, “That guy’s a fool” and remember the people in their own lives who are truly brave.





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