Yesterday, on a whim, I adopted a five year old male cat named, K.C. I was drawn to him the moment I saw him, but thought I wanted to adopt two cats who were siblings, so I pushed him out of my mind. But, something kept pulling me back to him. When I told one of the adoption volunteers I was interested in him, she lit up and called me “an angel sent from God”. I gave her a quizzical look. Apparently, K.C. has spent most of his years in and out of shelters and foster homes. Yesterday was his last day up for adoption before he would again be sent back to a less-than-ideal environment. Well, that sold it. The rescuer in me said, “He’s mine!” An hour later, he was crawling out of his cat carrier…and immediately under my futon, where he remained for almost 24 hours.
When I was advised by his foster mom not to change his name I thought, “He doesn’t look like a K.C. to me. How can I live with that name?” My friend suggested I find a way to make K.C. stand for something meaningful to me. After much thought, I decided it would stand for “King Courage”. Okay, so that’s a little hokey. But, since he was described to me as a “dominant male”, I figured “King” fits. And since it will require courage for him to adjust to his new home and since I’ve had to summon quite a bit of courage myself in recent days, the second name fits, too.
Courageous is a word often used in reference to people who overcome obstacles or face things that most of us wouldn’t want to face. Some people embrace the label. Others shun it. My friend and co-author, David J. McCallum, speaks about that in his forthcoming memoir, “Visions of Vietnam”. He writes, “A lot of soldiers will talk about the value of courage, but I never felt courageous in combat. I just thought of myself as completing my mission. I never strove to win medals. Medals weren’t talked about. In fact, Medal of Honor recipients say it best: ‘There are a lot of people who should be wearing this medal instead of me…’ They wear the medal for everybody. They seem courageous to the rest of us, but it’s their discipline, focus, concentration, and trusting their instincts that allows them to do what we deem ‘courageous’.”
Perhaps he’s right. Perhaps what the rest of us call “courage” is really just a moment of clarity in which our instincts tell us something and we summon a burst of focused and concentrated energy aimed at some task that others see as difficult. In that case, we all have it within us to be courageous. It’s courageous to start out on a journey towards recovery from disordered eating. It’s courageous to face a physical illness. It’s courageous to love. And it’s courageous to “let go and let God” guide your next steps.
What would it be like to reframe courage in this way, to think of courage as trusting one’s instincts? What are your instincts telling you? I’ll tell you what K.C.’s instincts are telling him tonight: this could be my best home yet!
Peace, joy, and courage,