I’m inspired to tell you a story about a day a few months ago, when I learned about Courage and met Hubert.
I was having a bad day, one of those days that involves neck pain and a dozen worries before breakfast. I had just been reading Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance and learning about how to meet my fears head on. And I practiced that sitting with my feelings in bed, and whispering "this too," for good measure.
My body still felt stiff and achy, so I decided to go for a walk through my neighborhood. I went to my favorite park and stomped on some leaves and took a moment to listen to the birds perched on the branches of a very tall tree. When I got to the base of the park, I saw a very tan man in athletic clothes listening to his walkman and stretching. I was a little annoyed to see him interrupting in my favorite place of my favorite park, but I shrugged and decided to continue exploring.
I started looking around and my eyes rested on a stone lion statue with a wide open mouth. It reminded me of a friend who loves lions, so I took a picture and got a little bit closer. And even though it was a statue, I felt a little intimidated by it, so I didn’t get too close.
I tiptoed away from the lion and asked the very tan man about what he was listening to on his headphones. He mentioned following to the coverage of the Golden State Warriors parade in Oakland. I wondered why he wasn’t there celebrating and he mentioned the crowds and that there were already ½ a million people there lining up. I asked him about basketball, it turns out he played as a kid, and learned he grew up in the town next door to mine and that our high schools played each other in different years. And he asked about the apricots on my favorite sweatshirt and I told him about selling jam at farmer’s markets and why I decided not to work in Epidemiology.
Eventually, he asked me if i had met Hubert, the lion statue, and I said yes. And he told me how Hubert had been there for ages and used to be a fountain. And that he served as a clue for geocachers and that if I looked real close, I could see the chip.
I stepped a little closer to Hubert and his wide gaping mouth, and stepped in to take a look. “He’s friendly, don’t worry,” offered my new friend, “and he really likes it if you scratch his nose.”
And somehow, Hubert, the intimidating stone statue, became Hubert, my new (inanimate) friend. I said goodbye to the kind neighbor and gave Hubert a parting scratch on the nose and went on my way to find some tea and a snack.
Meeting these new friends made me think a little bit where I avoid where I avoid the things that intimidate me or seem unfamiliar. I thought about how easy it is to go about my day stuck in my thoughts and distance myself from neighbors or former fountains in the shape of a lion.
And I felt grateful for the tiny moment of courage that inspired me to strike up a conversation and stick my head inside a friendly beast.