Monday, September 19, 2011

Today's fortune: September 19, 2011

Today's fortune: Your courage will bring you honor.

This is the third fortune I've opened this year with the word "courage" in it. Back on July 27, the fortune "The courage to be great lies within each of us" was more about greatness than courage. But the fortune waaay back on February 28, over 200 days ago, was pretty similar to this one: "Your courage will guide your future."

I think the fortune cookie gods sent me this fortune today for a reason. They gave me a chance back in February to write about something in particular, but I didn't. I think they want me to share my deepest, darkest secret.

No kidding around. What I'm about to share really is my worst secret. I have shared this secret with only one person in the whole word, and not until I was married to her for four or five years.

The reason I'm choosing to tell you folks is because the secret in question has to do with courage - or, in this situation, my lack of courage. The experienced shaped me, and I believe I have more courage now because of it. But still... the incident is a black mark on my soul. And this blog has been all about laying everything on the table.

So here goes.

I was probably about thirteen years old, give or take. A few months before some new people moved into the house next door, a man and a woman. The woman was polite and friendly, the man outgoing and boisterous with a strong personality. He was a big guy, and she was a very petite woman.

One day I was home by myself. The man and woman were standing in their front yard, which I could see from a window in our dining room. I heard a commotion and I ran to the window, but I couldn't be seen behind a curtain. The woman and the man were fighting, the woman screaming at the man. Suddenly the man shoved the woman, not a hard shove, but definitely in the category of spousal abuse by anyone's definition.

He kept shoving her as she fought back, but she was no match for him. The woman started screaming for help. In my head I ran through a list of options: bang on the window to distract him or scare him off; pick up the phone and call the police; or go out there and make him leave. But even as my brain processed these choices, my feet were planted to the floor and I was completely frozen by fear. I couldn't do any of those things, because I was scared. I just stood there, horrified, and watched.

It didn't last long, ten seconds at most, before the guy walked away and drove off. He never came back around after that, and a few months later the woman moved out. I don't know what happened to her after that. But during those months following the incident, I could never look her in the eye again. And until now, I never told a soul except for my wife.

The incident still haunts me. I could have done something, and I didn't. There's nothing I feel more shame or regret over. Today's fortune talks about honor. There was certainly no honor in what I did, or rather what I didn't do.

I made a vow then and there that I would never let myself react that way again. I would stand up and do what was right.

I just asked Jamie what she thought of when she heard the word "courage." She said something profound:

"If you're not scared, it's not courage."

That is so true. Back when I was thirteen, I was scared to death, and I let the fear freeze me. Now, when I'm in situations like that, I try to let the fear empower me. And in that fear I try to find courage.

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