Posted by: Nancy | February 26, 2012

Everyday Acts of Courage

We were walking in San Francisco, drinking in the sights of old familiar places, so different from the Midwest yet feeling so at home. Earlier, at the conference, I had kept one eye on the windows. I had been watching the fog bank materialize and slowly pull itself into the city. I have always loved that about the city — the sense of being so close to the elements, being embraced by the mists.

Now, at early evening, we’re walking on California Street when I see her. She was old, perhaps 80 or more, a contradiction of frailty and determination.

She was walking uphill, up California, nearing the pinnacle of Nob Hill. With one hand, she braced herself against the wall of the building, her handbag in the  crook of her elbow.  On the other side, she holds on to a young man for support. He’s smiling at her, sometimes leaning down to speak in her ear. He seems patient.

Her face is unmoved, focused on the next step. She pauses between steps, to catch a breath, to muster strength. I’ve seen that before — it looks exactly like the labored steps of the climbers on Everest. I’ve read about the extreme effort, the utter focus, the massive commitment it takes to make each step.

It was the same for her.

She was wearing broad sandals with socks, likely the most comfortable items she had, likely the best for swollen legs and feet. She moved slowly, faltering, but with complete focus and determination.

She was in my thoughts all night. I wondered about her home, or her destination if not home. I wondered about the young man, probably 50 years her junior. Was he a relative or neighbor, or a stranger helping her?

None of it mattered. What captured me was her courage. She knew she would be challenged, she knew she would struggle and she did it anyway.

Her image has become a part of me now.

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