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Daring Greatly

October 15, 2013

"It's not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the person who is in the arena. Whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly ... who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly ..."  Theodore Roosevelt. 

In Honduras we meet people in the arena.  We meet people who are working with no salary for a cause they believe in.  We meet people who risk their lives to work in dangerous conditions with little or no government protection.  Taxi drivers, for example.  You may not think of driving a taxi as the most altruistic profession, but it requires skill, experience, stamina and courage.  In the past decade the streets of Tegucigalpa have become extremely dangerous due to the migration of the drug trade south from Mexico, to more fertile grounds of Honduras and El Salvador.  We haven’t talked to a single driver who hasn’t been mugged, robbed or hijacked, most of them multiple times.  There is little protection for them, as the police are underfunded, undertrained and underpaid.  The United States has, in the past, provided funding for security, but that funding has been withdrawn until Honduras combats the corruption within the police force.  The streets become even more dangerous. 

I want to be the one in the arena.  I want to show up. But I am not daring and I’m certainly not valiant.  (Although I used to drive a Chrysler Valiant.)  Exploring new oceans, I can do.  I’m not afraid to ride a bus with chickens or start a conversation with strangers.  I’m not afraid to drink the water or eat the lettuce.  I am, however, terrified of stumbling and falling; of kicking and a gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer, borrowing a line from Johnny Cash.  I am terrified of the people who point out how the strong man (or woman) stumbles.  In this day it is the Twitter Thugs, e-mail Ruffians and Facebook Bullies who handily point out your stumbles and missteps from their computer enhanced armchairs. 

Getting in the arena means opening yourself up to vulnerability, criticism and getting kicked.  But, in the end, even more, I fear coming to the close of my days and wondering if I could have made a difference if only I had shown up.   If only I wasn’t afraid of stumbling.

Don puts this way:   “When I enter the proverbial golden gates and St. Peter asks, “What did you do for humankind?”  I don’t want to be forced to say, “I got nothin’ for ya, dude.” 

What arena have you entered in your life?  Have you written a letter to your congressional representative or spoken before a city council meeting? Have you served on a non-profit board or a committee of your church?  Have you served in a soup kitchen or pounded nails on a Habitat for Humanity house?  Have you marched in peaceful protests?  (Just one doesn’t count.)   Have you gotten out of your comfort zone?  Have you wallowed in the mud and the blood and the beer?  (Just beer doesn’t count either.) 

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  Mark Twain

Don and Maryjane Westra serve in Honduras assigned to the Christian Commission for Development (CCD).

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