"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
great-heart-ed Function: adjective
1 : characterized by bravery : COURAGEOUS
2 : a character trait not limited to only big muscular men with war paint on
Courage can be found in many forms, in many places, and I unexpectedly found a shining example of it at the beginning of my sophomore year at Furman, in 1979.
At the beginning of each year, about half of the student body is made up of incoming freshmen. They've had about a week to meet each other, and then the upperclassmen arrive.
Various activities are scheduled during the first couple of weeks to encourage people meeting each other. One of the major ones is a dance. They would hold it in the dining hall, with a live band. The room would be darkened, and there would be a few chairs around the edges.
All the guys would mill about in big groups, trying to be (or at least look) confident, and all the girls would sit or stand around the edges waiting on someone to ask them to dance. It was pretty much a meat market.
And I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Several of us walked over together, but I think I was probably more ready to have a good time than anyone. Particularly after the summer I had, with girls practically falling all over me every night while I was on stage, I was as confident as a human being could be.
I intended to dance with every single pretty girl in the room, if I could. And there were bunches. Or at least it looked like there were, it was pretty dark in there.
So, I started circling and would pick out a girl, ask her to dance, then while on the dance floor I would try to get to know her a little more.
"So, what's your name?"
"What's your name?
"WHAT'S YOUR NAME??!?"
"OK! WHERE ARE YOU FROM?"
"NO, NOT ART. BUSINESS MAJOR."
And so forth.
Out of all the girls there that night, two of them really stood out to me.
One of them did so simply because her name was Cliff. I had never met a girl named Cliff. Apparently her dad wanted a boy really bad so he named her Clifford anyway. We became good friends, and even dated once so we could say we did it.
But there was another one. Her name was, I believe, Robin (and I might be wrong, if I am and she reads this, I am sorry.) She was as cute as she could be, with a short pixie hairstyle, sparkling eyes, and a great big smile that beamed like a headlight. At first she said she didn't dance (yeah right, that means "I'm bashful" in English, every guy knows that) but I ended up talking her into it.
I danced with her more than once. Like maybe eight times, or more. She was a good dancer, and fun. And that smile, wow. As far as I was concerned, she made my night.
One of the songs led to a slow dance number. She seemed particularly reticent about slow dancing, but I insisted. When I took her hand in mine, I understood.
It wasn't all there. Only part of it.
And you know what? It made no difference to me at all.
We danced, and she was wonderful, graceful, beautiful.
I saw her occasionally checking her mail or passing in the halls. It wasn't until I saw her in shorts that I understood the depth of her courage.
It wasn't just her hand.
Robin was a thalidomide baby.
For those not familiar with that, these poor children were born to mothers who had taken a prescription drug called thalidomide, which ended up having a very high incidence of severe birth defects. Usually this was in the form of misshapen or missing hands, arms, feet, legs.
Robin had both hands deformed.
And Robin had no legs.
You could see where the prosthetics attached above her knees. And yet she handled it, lived her life as a normal pretty girl would.
Even dancing with an idiot like me that simply wouldn't take no for an answer.
So many people make a deformity or a challenge in their lives an excuse. But others, the best of us, overcome these as best we can, and go on about our living.
I was awed, and very humbled. Twenty five years later, I still am. It's people like Robin that really are the examples we should be holding up to copy, not the ones we do hold up. There will be no basketball, baseball, or football player I will ever hear about that comes close to Robin for heroism, in my book.
Five foot two, eyes of blue (or maybe brown, I don't remember) but oh what those five foot could do...
Thanks Robin. I might not remember your name perfectly, but I'll never forget your heart until the day I die.
I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.