On this morn of my birthday, I find my thoughts meandering backward in time. The events of last weekend hover over my thoughts like a fog over the river on a cool fall morning. I’ve long wondered how to begin my harebrained idea of a blog and this week I had an epiphany moment. It was one of those moments you only read about in books. Those moments where all things, even if only for a moment, come together to make sense. Each time I read through such a vignette, I had a deep-rooted concern that I’d never experience such a moment. I had always thought, if I could have such a moment of clarity, it would be surrounding a truly profound moment in life, but alas, no. It was about my first blog topic.
A week ago today, I was awaiting the arrival of an eclectic group of people to Hope Express Headquarters. I had been Angus’ed into coming a day earlier than everyone else to help with some prep work. Hank’s Angusing was generally against your will, but as a teammate so eloquently implied, you typically walked away from being Angus’ed with a restored faith in humanity. I’m so glad I did. That was the beginning of what may go down in history as the best birthday gift, best any gift; I’ve ever given myself.
Months ago, when Hank came up with the idea of a Ragnar Relay/Hope Express hybrid team, I was an electric bundle of excitement. There were ups and downs along the way with the composition of the team, but looking back with twenty-twenty hindsight, I don’t think the Fates could have cobbled together anything more beautiful.
A conversation with a dear friend this weekend led me to look up the word, “Brave.” Dictionary.com peddles the following:
Brave: adjective, brav·er, brav·est, noun, verb, braved, brav·ing. adjective
1. possessing or exhibiting courage or courageous endurance.
2. making a fine appearance.
3. Archaic . excellent; fine; admirable.
I say, “peddles,” because I don’t think this sparse, cold collection of words does justice to the TRUE meaning. Bravery is putting on a uniform and running into the field of battle for a cause larger than one’s self, standing before insurmountable odds, forging ahead and speaking what you believe in a room of people determined to beat their ideas into your head and heart. It’s more than that, too. There’s loud bravery and quiet; big and little; wide and narrow. I was fortunate enough to witness them all on this journey: each in my teammates.
After an event, Hank Angus’es everyone into a recap; a little recipe with your thoughts about the event and a sprinkling of shout outs to teammates. Herein lie the personifications of bravery I discovered in a few short days – personifications that have left an indelible mark.
“Fight on, my merry men all,
I’m a little wounded, but I am not slain;
I will lay me down for to bleed a while,
Then I’ll rise and fight with you again.”
I think few of you knew how much Katee’s knee was hurting her. She began our journey with true bravery in pain and made all of us proud with her solid and steady performance. Thanks for the hug after that first leg. I’m pretty sure you had some super glue holding me together just then.
Nikki Kemper: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, ‘I’ll try again tomorrow.’” Mary Anne Radmacher
I think the bravery required to step into a situation like a Ragnar Relay with complete strangers is astounding. It also takes bravery to be able to say, “I’m hurt and I need help.” I believe in you and that you will wake up tomorrow and say, “I’ll try again.”
Hank Angus: “Until the day of his death, no man can be sure of his courage.” Jean Anouilh
Hank, you have proved this quote WRONG! I’ll never be able to tell you how much going to Gabe’s clinic meant to me. There were times I questioned if I was “worthy” to go along. It was a truly beautiful moment: father and son, walking an old battleground they fought on and have walked away from with some scars. But what’s important is they walked away. It was precious to me. Thank you. When I handed off to you and the people watching asked me, “Was that your dad?” You know, Hank.
Janet Berg: “Bravery is the capacity to perform properly, even when scared half to death.” Omar Bradley
Janet, you are an amazing person. That last leg of yours was a nightmare, but you carried yourself with such grace. I aspire to that kind of peace under pressure. The chat over that massive plate was a treasure. I’m so thankful you were in my van.
Kristen Brown: “You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” Stephen King
Peanut! Thank you for your persistence. You were such an important part of this team and your courage to be a part of this team was awe-inspiring.
Brian Ghigiarelli: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anais Nin
Courage caused life to expand around you this weekend, especially as you turned into a machine and pounded up a mountain we watched person after person walk. You reminded me of the story Hank tells about Gabe trying to walk from the Nittany Lion Inn to Rec Hall for THON. When told that he didn’t have to go, he could go back to the hotel room, Gabe’s reply, “I can’t, my dancers need me.” This weekend, on that mountain, you said, “My runners need me.” You were right.
Andrew Simonelli: “True bravery is shown by performing without witness what one might be capable of doing before all the world.” Francois de la Rochefoucauld
You are a beast. The selfless, quiet, “I’m gonna act like I’m normal but then run every one else’s brains into the ground,” kind of beast. You killed all your legs in the quiet, witness-less wilderness.
Lauren Masi: “Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.” John Quincy Adams
Any time I get to spend time with you, I consider a gift. Your spirit and energy are contagious. This quote is truly for your last leg. The incline disappeared before you. I’m thankful I was able to cheer you on as you tackled that monster of a leg.
Teisha Eismann: “Bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid.” Franklin P. Jones
You were an amazing addition to the team. I wish I had gotten more time to talk with you, but watching you sail along your last leg was awesome. You made it look easy. If it wasn’t, we couldn’t tell.
Heather Detwiler: “The guts carry the feet, not the feet the guts.” Cervantes
You are one of the gutsiest runners I’ve ever seen. I don’t know anyone else who would have been able to run that crazy woods fog run you ended up with. Thanks for keeping us in touch with Van 2.
Maria Peredes-Fernandez: “A high station in life is earned by the gallantry with which appalling experiences are survived with grace.” Tennessee Williams
You’ve been through a lot, my dear. Each time I knew you were running, I remembered the Nittany Lion Inn last year after the Hope Express. I just remembered those that were with you during every step of every leg you ran. You have truly survived with grace. Thank you.
My words are small matters compared to what my teammates did last weekend. I’ll always be thankful for the opportunity to see exemplification of bravery and courage.
“But the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.” Thucydides