An Inside Job

When they pass out medals for bravery, Sherry Basu deserves one. This four-feet-one-inch twenty-four-year-old was sixty-five pounds of raw courage.

I met Sherry a few years ago when she was managing a one-day dry cleaner and laundry in my neighborhood that adjoined the convenience store where I bought my morning paper and coffee. I began timing my trip to arrive when Sherry did, so I could carry her purse and the plastic bag that contained her lunch.

Sherry had a congenital deformity that had her trapped in a twisted body with legs that wouldn’t work. Negotiating the five yards from the car to the front door of her store was an ordeal. Holding on to a railing, she would take a short, faltering step with her left foot, drag the right one alongside, rest—then repeat the routine. Nothing in the shop was user-friendly for someone her size. The four steps from the customer service counter to the garment-conveyor carousel was a slow, torturous trip for Sherry. I would find it tough to live with her handicap for one day. She had lived with it every day of her life.

Sherry would have been a shoo-in for disability benefits. Instead, she showed up for work six days a week and tackled a twelve-hour shift, 7-to-7. I asked her what time she had to get up to get ready for work. Three-thirty, she said.

Never and always described Sherry: she never complained and always smiled. “Be strong and courageous!” God said to Joshua (Joshua 1:9). He didn’t need to say it to Sherry.

Courage has many faces:

It is the single mom struggling to make ends meet and hours stretch.
It is the laid-off father, feeling the agony of hopelessness but refusing to give up.
It is the child of divorce, suffering the ache of rejection and battered self-image but hanging in there.
It is the caregiver, contending with exhaustion but remaining compassionate and cheerful.
It is the chemo patient battling terror and fatigue, who jokes that bald is beautiful.
It is the widow facing old age alone and the world with a smile.

And it is the person whose heartache is played out in the shadows, unknown to others. Your youthful dreams envisioned a lived-happily-ever-after adventure. But life may have taken a cruel turn and dumped you at a very different destination.

Life is a mixture of joy and sorrow. You have good days and bad days. Victories and defeats. Times when you feel good and times when you don’t.

What sets courageous people apart is that they refuse to give up. They stumble. Fall. Get up. Move on. The strongest aren’t those who win but those who don’t quit when they lose.

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” —Mary Ann Radmacher

My friend Allen Isbell says that it is easier to control your actions than your attitudes. Bad attitudes, he says, are toxic. They poison from inside out. They contaminate relationships. Sabotage happiness. Make life miserable.

Reach deep within yourself and summon the courage to accept ownership of your attitude. Stop blaming others for your actions and moods, your flaws and failures. Someone hurt your feelings. Broke your heart. Shattered your dreams. Let it go! Move on. Forgive. However badly someone has treated you, and however deeply it hurts, get over it.

That’s not easy, Joe.

I know.

Do it anyway. For your own sake. For until you do, you will spend your days wallowing in the muck of misery and self-pity. So, decide now, this very minute, to give up the blame game.

Your circumstances may be beyond your control, but your attitude isn’t. Courage to change your attitude is an inside job.

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