Courage For Beginners
Courage can mean many things. Some people paint it in big bold
colors and envision someone like the person who runs into a burning
building to rescue a baby. Some people define a kind of quiet heroism
such as that displayed by people who speak up when no one else will.
When it comes to kids, sometimes those who find the heart and grace to
cope within their families and communities display every bit as much
courage as the other two types. This is certainly true for Mysti
Murphy, protagonist of Karen Harrington's Courage for Beginners.
Just as seventh grade is about to begin Mysti's only friend,
Anibal, instructs her to pretend she doesn't know him when they're in
school. He's going to revamp his image and try for an uber popular
cheerleader. Socially she'd be a liability.
Then her father falls out of a tree trying to retrieve a towel.
Suddenly he's in the hospital with brain injuries. Even after he has
surgery he's in critical condition.
This is more of a hardship for Mysti's family than it would be
for most. Her mom has a full fledged case of agoraphobia. Even
sitting in a parked car gives her panic attacks. So there's no one to
drive to the hospital, no one to shop for groceries...
...and now it's the first day of school for Mysti and her little
On a personal note, I loved two quotes on courage that I found in the
book. e. e. cummings said, "It takes courage to grow up and be who
you really are." Sam Houston said, "Do right and risk the
consequences." I learned how relevant the second one was at the May
school committee meeting. We had made all the cuts we could while
still providing an adequate education. The town council was pushing
us to make a lot more cuts. We were in our monthly meeting with an
actual audience including very anxious teachers and people from town
council and budget committee. We talked about the harm the cuts would
do to the school and town. We were edging up to where someone had to
make a motion to either accept or reject the cuts. Talk about a no
win situation. Then I remembered the scene from Jungle Book where
Mowgli is brought to Council Rock. The head wolf wants to protect
Mowgli from Sher Kahn the tiger who wants to devour him. Some being
must speak up. Well at our own Veazie council rock someone would have
to speak up to keep our Mowgli (school) from the teeth of Sher Kahn
(town council). So I chanelled Bagheera the panther and moved that we
stick with our numbers rather than give in. People were initially
shocked but all voted with me.
A great big shout out goes out to all school boards and committees
having to deal with very adverse financial circumstances.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod