I would never categorize myself as brave. Heroes are brave. Saints were brave. People fighting cancer are brave. My standards of bravery are so low here, but they are building my confidence as I make my way in my new city. I guess when I put my mind to it, I am being “mari brave” every day…And I know I don’t do it alone. I hang on to this verse, holding it deep in my heart and close to my lips: “I command you: be firm and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9.
Last week, I felt “brave” going to yoga. I love yoga but didn’t want to make a fool of myself in the class. Besides the fact there are mirrors (under the guise to help positioning, but for me, they just augment my flaws), feeling insecure in communication skills while being completely vulnerable in tights and sports bra is not really part of the yoga vernacular for “Namaste.” But last week, I was pleasantly surprised. The teacher was lovely and welcoming. She spoke French slowly and asked if she could practice her English. I tried to not to seem too eager in my “Bien sûr!” Although the class wasn’t what I would call a yoga class per se, but a hybrid calisthenics-relaxation class, it was unique. And I was sore the next day. It is not relaxing watching and trying to imitate, not mirror the instructor, murmuring low guidance in a language that already is missing half its sounds. But, I felt brave and glad I went.
I know I am living a fantasy, having two years in Paris, not having to work, with time to explore and experience. For that opportunity, I am grateful. But my life isn’t fantasy; it waxes and wanes and just as it has done everywhere we’ve lived, the plans are big and life happens. Yet, despite the frustrations that come with impromptu homeschooling, the dreary weather and loneliness, I know I am really not alone but challenged out of my comfort zone, into my invisible brave cape and into the City of Light.
We had an opportunity to help others at our church make meals to deliver to the homeless. Being Paris, no ordinary sandwiches would do. We had pasta, cheese, bread, fruit, pastries and juice to bring to those who would give much to have a day such as mine, even at its most challenging. There were a good twenty-five, thirty people at St. Joseph’s to help cook, assemble and seal, and then a dozen or so of us remained to head out and hand out. Despite the constant volley of rainfall, there were people out, not with umbrellas and waterproof shoes, but a hoodie and hope, looking for a few euros in their wilting cups.
Who experienced more joy? The recipients or us? They were all very grateful, which was not the expectation but a benison as we moved on. One in particular brought me to tears as he devoured the pasta as if it would disappear on its own if he didn’t. Young. Old. Raggedy. Clean-cut. They are there, day after day and so often, a smile and a “Bonjour!” are as welcome as the coins. In spite of returning home (to our warm and dry kitchen) literally soaked to the bone, my spirit felt light and my heart felt kissed with sunshine.
Liquid sunshine is what I am getting here in Paris. It does nothing for my wan skin, but it can warm my soul when I am brave enough to step away from me. While running (yes, I am still plugging away!), I have seen a few of the same people, day after day. Although my park running feels like a big, 1 km treadmill, the scenery changes with the people on the benches, the little pops of color coming out, doting the microcosms I pass. Again, young. Old. Raggedy. Clean-cut. Liam and I have been baking for them. Nothing fancy but a little something warm. And because of the smiles and the recognition, even when I have nothing to give, I find my heart is inundated with Grace.
Brave is attempting something that takes you out of your comfort. Sometimes it is fighting for your life. Sometimes it is fighting for someone else’s. Sometimes it is small, like going to the French dentist and hoping your Google translate pronunciation doesn’t fail you. Sometimes it is bigger, things I haven’t had to do. I may have a false bravado here, but it is helping me recognize being brave is looking into your heart and knowing you aren’t doing this alone.