Sunday, April 26, 2009

Celebrating the Hero Within

Celebrate the Hero Within

“Heroism may be the only way to love. Heroism can't be preached; it has only to show itself, and its mere presence may stir others to action.” Henri Bergson

Every morning when I awake, I see a painting created by a former patient of mine at the VA. He became a quadriplegic as a result of multiple sclerosis. He had never painted before the diagnosis of MS. He had the courage to share the blessing and the gift which emerged from the greatest challenge of his life. As he lost his vision and use of his arms and became a quadriplegic, he painted with a paint brush between his teeth. I received the gift of the painting because I would feed him at our MS support group meetings.

Being a hero means having the courage to be true to myself and to move in the direction of my dreams. I have a confession to make; I have been a reluctant hero. I have received so many emails and Tweets saying “You are my hero.” Huh – wait a minute. Who me? I'm somebody's hero? Our friends who were at the post race party overlooking Boylston Street said that as Team McManus approached the finish line, they were cheering as though they were watching Lance Armstrong win the Tour de France. People have been in tears because of my act of courage and heroism – to overcome post polio syndrome and take on the challenge of the Boston Marathon – and to succeed!

Why was I a reluctant hero? I was listening to the voices and behavior of those around me from the past. The ones who begrudgingly chose me last for their team in gym class and a family who rejected and abused me. Being in the spotlight before was an invitation for ridicule and abuse. But that came from people who were blind to see the heroes within themselves. How could I possibly expect them to see the hero inside of me? The hero who went to school every day with a leg brace; who excelled academically despite a chaotic home life; the hero who went on to serve those who served and despite debilitating illness, put the needs of my patients first and the hero who dared to conquer post polio syndrome to run in the 113th Boston Marathon to raise over $10,000 for Spaulding Rehab.

After the Marathon run was over, a part of me wanted to retreat into my old 'safe' world; yet ironically, that 'safe' world is fraught with fear and doubt, and a world in which I remain a victim. My passport has been revoked to travel to the land of victimhood. When I crossed the finish line it became a starting line for me to share my journey and to share my gifts with the world.

Last night, someone I met at the Hyannis Half Marathon called me to congratulate me and tell me I was his hero. He wanted to hear all about my journey on the road to the Boston Marathon. I recalled the countless orthopedic surgeries and rehab; I recalled the intensive rehab following the diagnosis of post polio syndrome; I recalled the leap of faith I took to leave the security of my full time job and paycheck at the VA to follow my passion and to share my gift of poetry with the world. I recalled running in cold and ice and I recalled all the blessings and grace I experienced along this journey. I recalled the incredible people I have met – such as himself and the lives I have already touched with my courage and heart.

Every time I share my journey and realize what strength, beauty and courage I possess to have overcome the challenges in my life, the scales of fear fall away and I realize it is time to step into my role as a hero. Me, a hero? You bet I am and so are you!

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