Simcha settled into his chair and sipped dark, earthy coffee from a silver mug. Outside he could see four geese gingerly plucking insects from the grass by a tiny pool of water. His was a life of contentment and peace, days without waiting and nights of serenity. Each day brought a new reason for Simcha to smile. Each moment and move of the sun reminded Simcha to call out with his heart and heal whatever he could reach.
His dearest friend worked hard from early until late each and every day. In his fields he thought about life, the meaning of it and the many mistakes he thought he’d made. His fears were many and they’d chained him to a life of regrets. He was ashamed and exhausted and not sure of what to do to change things.
“Courage,” Simcha called out to his friend.
The farmer waved in response. He was always delighted to see Simcha, but more than a little confused that his dear friend insisted on calling him Courage. He was anything but. In fact, he was timid and cowardly. He had relinquished many blessings to fear. He’d even been warned that one day he would give his last breath to it.
He was a solitary man, keeping mostly to himself and spending his days on the simple things. He and Simcha were quite similar in that regard, but a canyon spread between them in other ways. Though no one lived in his home with him, Simcha knew fully and exuberantly that he was not alone. His friend did not. He muddled through life with despair in his eyes and no one to half the sorrow or double the joy. But Simcha was persistent. He defiantly called his friend Courage.
The man suspected what Simcha was doing. The sage artist was always speaking up, calling things that were not as though they were. He’d snapped many chains with a few well-placed phrases, his quiet voice shouting over the din. Courage was secretly proud that Simcha had picked him, among all the people of their village, to rename. He began to look forward to the afternoon wave and the hope it gave him.
But each time it happened, Courage would think of all the reasons he was not courageous. He would smile and wave at Simcha as if he agreed, but in his heart he did not.
Courage came from a long line of people who succumbed to fear. Its deceptive pull captivated and mislead them. The habit of terror enslaved him. He would worry and fret until he was afraid to move. His days were full of creation, but the simple farmer constructed a world of agony around himself. He was afraid he would fail. He was afraid of shame. He habitually, whole-heartedly, and with a broken spirit told himself over and over again that it was hopeless. He expected the worst and assumed everyone felt this way. He spun his own web of deceit, rolling around and around in it until he was trapped. He believed he was right. He trusted what simply was not true. But Simcha refused to let him remain shackled to a lie.
Courage was also in love.
She was a beautiful woman and Courage adored her from afar. Every now and then he would catch a glimpse of her walking in the village with her sister’s children. She was alone, like him, but cared deeply for others. She gave her days to the youngsters, taking them on adventures and teaching them about their people, the village, and the mountains reaching toward the sky in the distance. He would look for her most days and, on the rare occasion he saw her, his heart would sing and he would wish. Just wish. His heart grew deep with loneliness, but he refused to take the chance and reach out.
Many times he spoke to Simcha about his love. Simcha listened, but rarely spoke. He understood, but the wise man offered no advice other than to misname his friend. He had no words, no suggestions, just defiance in the face of fear. He would nod and smile and call him Courage.
Simcha’s friend toiled in the field to take his mind off his empty heart. He made and remade a barn and a carriage and the steps to Simcha’s door. He planted and harvested, bundled and stored and gave away many, many blessings to others. But the days grew longer and longer and his heart began to tire.
He stopped his work one day just as the sun was at its highest place in the sky. Squinting in the glare and scanning the horizon, he did not see his faithful friend. Simcha always came at mid-day. In fact, he was a little late. Courage began to worry, but stopped himself. He went back to work, but then stopped that too. Something had changed, he could feel it. It was as if everything was different or at least seemed that way. He looked high across the land. No Simcha. This day his friend didn’t come and he stood alone in the noon sun, listening to the whistling of the wind and the calling of the birds.
He thought about his life and how he’d refused to move through most of it. He remembered the many lonely days as if each had a name and bookmark in his mind. He didn’t have many bad memories, but even fewer good ones. He shook his head, reminding himself of Simcha and the way he’d lower his eyes and nod as if a point had been made.
Today would be different. He left his tools in the field, went to his house to clean up, and set off for the village. Soon he found himself standing face to face with the woman he loved.
Introducing himself for the first time, he said, “My name is Courage.”
He hadn’t meant to say it, but he’d heard it so often it came out as though it were the truth. It felt so much better than the lie.
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