Courage: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty (Merriam-Webster).
As the current year fades and the new year approaches, many look to make New Year Resolutions. We look to make changes, large or small, in our lives.
But most change is hard. If it was easy, we would have done it by now. The well-known Serenity Prayer states: “Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It takes courage to change. What does courage look like in action? Let’s look to ordinary wood ducks.
You may know that wood ducks do not nest on the ground, but in openings in trees or in wood duck boxes, affixed to trees.
You’re a baby wood duck and all of your life you have been sitting in a wooden box, above the ground, with your siblings, your mom, broken eggshells and duck poop. The only light you see is a little round hole that your mom pops in and out of. It is light and dark in turns. You sit there, with your siblings poking you in the eye sometimes, and it’s smelly, but it is all you know. This is life.
One day your mom goes out and does not come back into the box. Instead, you hear “quack quack quack,” I’m not coming in anymore.
“Quack quack quack,” you need to go to the hole and jump out.
What, you think, jump out? Jump out where? Leave my home? You cannot imagine what happens if you jump out through the hole. What’s out there? Is there anything out there? How can it be better than where I am?
“Quack quack quack,” says momma duck. I’m not coming back. You stay in there and you will die.
Die? Not sure what that means but it doesn’t sound good. But this is all you know.
Slowly, one of your siblings goes to the hole, peeks out and then falls. That doesn’t look good either.
“Quack quack quack,” I don’t have much more time. You need to get out now.
One by one, your siblings find the courage to go to the hole, and jump out. Soon you are alone, sitting in a box with shells and smells. Your mother’s quacking is starting to sound further off.
Finally, mostly out of fear of being alone, you push yourself out the hole. And you fall, flaying your little helpless wings. You hit the ground. And it hurts.
But suddenly, you take in a whole new world. World beyond your imagining. Sights and sounds and smells you had never encountered in your short life. And there, a few feet away, with your siblings, is your mom.
“Quack quack quack,” it’s about time. Now quickly follow me. You find your webbed feet that you had never before used but are quite capable of getting you over to your mom and siblings. You will soon learn to swim, something you could not have dreamed possible, and then, even more magical, to fly. In short, a life unimaginable within the wooden box.
Life isn’t perfect for the wood duckling. There is cold, rain, muskies in the lake and foxes in the brush. But there is a set of possibilities for the duck that would not be attainable in the box. The box may be safe but staying in there would cause the duck to be stunted and then die.
So, there you are in your box. It is somewhat uncomfortable and it’s way too familiar, and you want more. You may not know exactly what you need to do. You may know exactly what you need to do but are scared to try. What happens if you try and things get because worse? Oh no!
The wood duck jumps, helplessly flaps its wings, and falls. It hurts. But then it begins its new life. It takes mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty – courage – to change. But just as the world of the wood duck is larger than expected from within the wood box, our lives can be unimaginably beautiful. It’s never too late. “Quack quack quack.”