Fear shows up unbidden…and it’s rarely a useful tool for your best work. Hope, on the other hand, can be conjured. It arrives when we ask it to, it’s something we can give away to others again and again, and we can use it as fuel to build something bigger than ourselves. ~ Seth Godin
Here’s a post I’ve updated from my 2012 archive. If you’re looking for last-minute snack ideas for Halloween, check out these Tasty Howl-o-ween Recipes.
According to a survey conducted by HalloweenSurvey.com in 2012, a lot of Americans love Halloween: 72% celebrate it, 50% of adults wear a costume for the holiday, and over 8 billion dollars is spent every year to prepare for it. That’s a whole lot of scary love. The reverse statistics could mean that 28% of the population either doesn’t care about Halloween or doesn’t like it. But whether we (1) love dressing up and giving ourselves over to the role of our favorite other self, (2) think the whole thing is silly, or (3) believe Halloween celebrations are rooted in evil, we can probably all agree on a few things:
1. Everyone wears a mask sometimes. How many people do we show our real selves to? Probably only a few we truly trust. And even if we are the upfront, this-is-who-I-am kind of people, we still have a tendency to hide our feelings. Anger and cheerfulness can both mask deeply felt pain. Remembering that everyone is wounded and scarred to some degree can make us more compassionate to those around us.
2. Each day is what we make of it. Whether you believe Halloween is loads of fun or just plain evil, the day is ours to take from it or give to it what we will. Just like every other day. Our days are good or bad because of the choices we make and how we decide to perceive life. No matter our circumstances, we are each responsible for our part in the making of every day we’re given.
3. Life is sometimes tricky and sometimes a treat, but more often it’s something in between. We have great days and we have awful days. But life is lived mostly in the ones that fall between those extremes. These are the normal “okay” days that often seem to just creep along, filled with unremarkable hours, unless we take the time to really look for the remarkable in the mundane. Finding contentment right where we are – fun-size chocolate bars, anyone? – is something worth striving for.
How do you measure up to the Halloween statistics?
While I’m off at a conference, I’d like to share this article from my archives.
Even with my limited military experience, I know the value of training, like breaking down a weapon and putting it back together, over and over. Take care of your weapon and it will take care of you, kind of thing. Various forms of combat training, mock emergency exercises, gas mask drills—all done with the goal of solidifying the important things in the brain so when the need arises, the body reacts with little or no hesitation.
I used to volunteer with a white-water rafting company. I trained with the rest of the staff before rafting season, and during the season we trained groups of clients in river safety before each trip. Weekend after weekend, and year after year, it all got drilled into my brain. And when I actually fell out of a raft one day and found myself trapped underneath it, spinning in the current at the base of a waterfall, my body did what my brain had been trained for—and I did exactly what was necessary to escape, without panic.
Knowing the value of training is also the reason I always read through the emergency procedure literature on an airplane before takeoff and watch the flight attendant demonstrate getting out of a seatbelt and putting on an oxygen mask. I look at the pictures and go through the steps in my mind, imagining myself opening those emergency doors and escaping. I want my mind to be ready, just in case, so my body responds accordingly.
The armed forces, police, firefighters, and emergency/rescue workers train hard, and sometimes for years, in order to respond correctly in the face of danger or disaster. When asked about their bravery, many of these people will tell you they are just doing their jobs the way they were trained to do them. I can see this might be true the first time a person is tested, but what about after that?
It takes real bravery to face an enemy more than once, whether the enemy is found in nature or a fellow human. Doing so could be grounded in training, as well as camaraderie—watching somebody else’s back, not wanting to let your buddy down. It could also be the result of truly knowing what the right thing is, and doing it. Otherwise, ordinary people wouldn’t rush into burning buildings to save strangers.
But where do the roots of such bravery come from? Maybe from parents or others whom children admire, teaching them by their words and actions to love their country, respect life, do the right thing, and make a difference. These are the children who grow up to choose vocations that take them into danger or who dedicate their lives to helping others. Or who simply live ordinary lives with grace and conviction (which ultimately leads to a better world).
We may not be able to teach bravery, but perhaps we can plant the seeds of courage.
Where do you think courage comes from?