Often I think that words can mean something different when they are uttered in nature.
Sometimes a word has more power when it’s spoken on a trail than when it’s spoken during a conversation around a dinner table.
A few days ago I was snowshoeing with my kids.
The wind was blowing dry powder snow into our faces as we rounded a corner, came out of the trees and scrambled to our car at the trailhead.
No big deal right, we live in southeastern Wyoming. We end every adventure walking headfirst into the wind.
My 2-year-old was on my back, asleep and snoring into my ear.
My 4-year-old was pushing ahead. He wasn’t whining. He wasn’t crying. He wasn’t saying anything. He was just keeping his eyes forward waiting for the parking lot to appear. He had snowshoed for an hour and a half. He was tired. We’d trudged our way through some deep snow. I was proud of him because the last section of our trail that day was definitely the hardest and he was handling it like a champ.
As two people passed us one of them dropped down, looked my kid in the eyes and said two words that have been stuck in my head ever since.
“You’re brave,” she said.
That was all. There wasn’t a High 5, or any follow-up as to why she thought he was brave. She simply said “you’re brave,” and walked away.
The words confused me.
Why didn’t she saw something like “Good Job” or “Right on Kid?”
Why did she use the word brave?
Was my child brave or was he simply trying to get to the trailhead, out of the wind and to the chocolate bar that he knew was in the car waiting for us.
For me, bravery is a word that’s reserved for special occasions, not mundane outdoor excursions.
Bravery is a soldier in a firefight. Bravery is leaving home for the first time. Bravery is having the courage to keep on going after a tragic death. Bravery is facing a terminal illness with a positive attitude. Bravery is leaving the hospital with a newborn and knowing that you don’t have a clue what you’re doing. Bravery is rushing into a burning building to save the life of a stranger.
Bravery is not a 4-year-old snowshoeing on a windy Wyoming day.
Or is it.
Maybe we’re brave every single day and we don’t even realize it.
Maybe “bravery” is one of those words that we need to think about and talk about more often.
What if bravery is having a difficult conversation with a co-worker, boss or family member? What if bravery is putting on a smile when we feel like frowning? What if bravery is recognizing that we need to change a bad behavior? What if bravery is setting a new goal that we know is probably going to kick our ass.
What if bravery is snowshoeing on a windy day and not being frustrated as pellets of snow slap us in the face?
I’m going to be brave today. But most important, the next time I see a child on a trail I’m going to tell them two simple words, “you’re brave,” and then I’m gonna hook them up with a huge High 5.
What are you going to do to be brave today?