Fictive Mirrors, Part I

It’s true that how we see ourselves is partly a reflection of how others regard us. This truth takes so many forms, and we each have our own “aha!” moments to illustrate it. One form that interests me is how we can sometimes be braver in defense of another person—even a stranger—than we can be for ourselves.

Two years ago, the father of my daughter’s good friend, was on his way to work when he saw a vehicle in the ditch, smoke roiling from the engine. Without pausing to think, he stopped, saw that the driver was unconscious, saw that there wasn’t time to wait for professionals, freed the driver from his seatbelt, and pulled him to safety. Before police or ambulance could arrive, the smoking vehicle exploded. Our friend and the man he rescued, though, were safe.

Stories like this make me wonder about my own fluctuating level of courage and help me see opportunities for new — albeit less dramatic — ways to stare down fear. Some years ago, as a fledgling homeschooling parent, I felt a lot of fear. I worried that I’d be misunderstood or, worse, that I would somehow fail at the most important thing I had ever undertaken, overseeing the academic education of my child. But I knew that, for her, at that time, homeschooling was what she needed, so I plunged in. It was the stories of other parents, their generosity in sharing their hopes and fears, philosophies and curricula, triumphs and disasters that helped me see how creative and, well, doable (and
fun!) homeschooling can be.

These days, I rarely feel that I will crash. Sometimes, I even feel that the homeschooling venture is cruising along just fine. I am propelled forward by results, not just in academic accomplishments but in the healthy growth I see in my daughter (and in myself). And stories are the fuel.