"All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don't. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity."
― Robert F. Kennedy
News reports on Ebola and the threat of Isis fills many minds with fear, and yet, in two days time a small group of young widows are choosing to leave the supposed safety of their own homes to travel abroad into the unknown. Their hearts are filled with great excitement mixed with anxiety and fear as they prepare to meet, some for the first time, at Heathrow airport. From there, they will step onto a plane together to travel to Nairobi to meet with two organizations that assist widows in need. They are going to spend time with twenty of these widows who live in one of the largest slums in Kenya. They are going to meet their sisters in grief and I will be with them. I am one of them.
It is not that our group of women hasn't braved the unknown before. We were harshly thrown into it when our spouses died. Whether it was cancer or a tragic accident, we had to find a new way of living when death came knocking at our door. We had to be brave then, and we will choose a new kind of bravery when our feet step onto foreign land having left our homes, families, friends, and jobs behind.
I hold great expectations for this trip even knowing that things could go wrong. I worry about illness and people getting along and my plans going smoothly. The "what if" thoughts fill my mind with some anxiety, but with the support of others and believing that this is something we are supposed to do, I am put back at ease. I am choosing to believe that even if problems arise along the way, a journey will have been made, we will have met, and we will have stepped out of our comfort zones to try to do something positive with our time on this earth. If anything, we will walk away perhaps a bit more brave, self-assured, and open.
When you stop to think about those experiences that most impacted your life, are they not the ones that stirred a bit of fear within? Are they not those that challenged you? Often it is within moments of bravery in which you feel more alive. It is why people sky dive, run marathons, try their hand at something new, and travel to unknown places. I ran six marathons after my husband died and one of the reasons was because it made me feel alive and as though I was capable of more than I thought. It was empowering in a time in which I felt I had no control. I honestly never thought I could run one and once I did, a new world opened. I find it to be no coincidence that many runners I have met started the sport when they experienced tragedy or disappointment in their personal lives.
It has always been when I have ventured into the slightly uncomfortable and the ugly that I have emerged the most changed. That said, I just don't want to go there most days. I don't want to feel uncomfortable or have to risk failure. I have a fear of opportunity. I don't want to see the opportunity so that I can be blind to having to take the chance on it. Fear holds me back but then I am reminded that is no way to live. So, with a bit of fear, I pack my bags for my journey in two days.
Perhaps you can't travel to Africa, but you can choose to do something that scares you a bit. Is there something that is tugging at your heart but you hold back in fear? Just go. Go out there and do something challenging. There is a world of opportunity and need around you. Open your eyes to it and go boldly, even with knees shaking.