Now, how to define Life?
There are a number of definitions around, but I really like the one that says: “Life is a daring adventure—or nothing.” Now this isn’t a quote from the Wallenda who walked a high wire across Niagara Falls or a daredevil stunt man or even from the first man to travel into space. The words were spoken by Helen Keller.
It makes me rethink the meaning of those two words, ‘daring’ and ‘adventure.’ Of course, there are truly daring people—heroes like firemen and officers of the law and soldiers who face unknown dangers for the good of all. Then come those intrepid souls who dance on the edge of danger. Explorers who ignore ice or blazing heat to map new terrain, adventurers who climb frozen peaks or chart a solo course across the ocean in a fragile boat, divers who seek treasure in hulks of long forgotten ships under the sea— all of these people easily fit one definition of ‘daring.’
One of my dear friends was one to whom adventure came naturally. Widowed at sixty, she joined the Peace Corps to share her knowledge of nursing. Later, she traveled the world, finding joy and excitement everywhere: she was invited to share bread and tea in a Guatamalan goatherd’s hut; she visited China long before its doors were open to the West and stayed with a Chinese family; once she sat next to the pilot of a two-engine plane in Nepal. “You know,” I remember her telling me, “there was mist everywhere but then it parted… and right in front of us was Everest!” When I exclaimed over her daring, she laughed. “Everybody’s life is an adventure,” she said.
Not every one of us has a chance to view Everest at close quarters, but my friend has the right of it, for there is the kind of daring that ordinary people practice as a matter of course. What can be more ordinary—or daring—than the child who leaves home for the first time and travels to a far away city or a new country to attend college? Young people thrive on new places, friendships, ideas, and knowledge—and step bravely into adulthood every day. Then there are those immigrant families who, in spite of many difficulties, work hard to create a new life in a new world. And what of those who are physically or mentally challenged but who absolutely refuse to be marginalized? Or those stalwarts who face terrible losses due to earthquakes or tornados or hurricanes and somehow soldier on to build again in the face of an uncertain tomorrow?
I’m thinking that we are all more daring than we believe. I’m thinking that folks who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own but who still keep looking day after day have a silent, unsung bravery all their own. And what can be more courageous than a patient who will not let a disease control her and who insists on living each day as fully as possible? My late friend, Lynne, was one of those people, and her too-short life was a grand adventure.
Teachers who inspire student after student and set each on his or her confident journey … the little lady behind the cash register at the grocery store who always greets me with a lovely smile and a hug… the people who take in unwanted animals and give them love… writers and artists who weave their dreams into works they can share with the world… in their way all these people dare to work and dream. They are brave and, yes, the rest of us are, too. Perhaps our lives don’t generate headlines or get hits on U-tube, but we are all of us travelers who undertake that greatest and most wondrous adventure of all: Life.
Each day, sun rises
Greet it with joy or sorrow…
The choice lies with us.