I’ve seen some courage lately.
A few months ago, a longtime Gotham teacher, Jon Gingerich, informed us that he wouldn’t be teaching for the foreseeable future as he adapts to something new: he was going blind.
Here’s a wonderful essay he wrote about the experience. In this passage, he uses a cane for the first time:
The sun’s hard glare met the pavement as I walked down 40th Street. The cane felt good in my hand. Blindness is a lonely world, but in that moment the future was an uninhabited planet coming into view. I felt relief that no one batted an eye. Why would they, anyway? The cane stuck in a crack on the sidewalk. This adaptation, this new skin, would take some getting used to. I reminded myself that change is rarely handled gracefully. Then the walk sign on Madison flashed and I continued west.
The World War II General George S. Patton Jr. said: Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.
Jon was devastated by going blind, but one day he got that cane and began walking with it.
(A distinction is often made between courage and bravery, the latter being an innate state, the former something you muster within yourself.)
And recently an old friend of mine, Carole Healey, passed away after a long bout with cancer. When she announced on social media there was nothing left her doctors could do, people sent messages and gifts. She faced her new reality with great grace, as seen in this post about a gift:
It arrived just as I was recovering from one of the worst bouts of sickness I have ever experienced. Like the rainbow after the flood, these beautiful blossoms give me hope and made me feel so loved.
This kind of courage—fear holding on a minute longer—makes for good storytelling. See how you can use it in the things you’re writing.
It doesn’t always have to be courage against illness or death. Even the minor things in life require courage. Meeting a stranger for a date. Making that long-delayed trip to the dentist. Eating toast in the morning, steeling yourself for a day you don’t want to face.
Show your characters (or yourself) wavering as they face the fear, perhaps even failing to summon the necessary courage. The more challenging it is, the more we will be moved by it.
You know about courage. Did school ever present hell to you? Did you shop in a grocery store in the early days of the pandemic? You probably need to rustle up some courage for something going on this week.
I’m rooting for you. Maybe you’ll do the same for me.

Alex Steele, Gotham President

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