Running to the Fire

I’ve been thinking about fear and courage in recent days of self quarantines, panic shopping, and the overall suspension of museums, Broadway, movie theaters, restaurants, jobs, and the human embrace.   I look at medical professionals on the front lines of this crisis and am awed by their courage. My parents, who are both medical professionals still working in the field, have that selfless courage and see these moments different from me.  They run to the fire without hesitation. Have I ever run to the fire? When I was in my mid-twenties, I went to post-war Bosnia to volunteer in Sarajevo. Though I was under the auspices of a non-governmental organization, I went alone to live with a family I had never met.  I had no cell phone and limited access to the internet. Besides one suitcase and the recommended dismemberment insurance in the event I stepped on a landmine, I went without fear or even hesitation, a feeling I could not replicate today. Why can’t I? Is the world more dangerous than it was?  More uncertain? Or have I become a different person? If so, can I change back to that person who said, “yes” without a doubt? That experience was one of the most profound moments in my life in which I was taught what courage, spirit, and perseverance looked like. I heard tragic stories, but also hopeful ones.  I saw people laugh, even at the bullet sprayed holes in the remnants of their homes. I saw the roof of a building someone nearly jumped from during the war, but didn’t. “Now, let’s get some pizza,” she said to me after pointing out her rooftop. There were many stories that are embedded within my conscience. Those stay with me, as do the people who embraced me as their own. Despite the loss they endured, they ran to the fire.

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