Every year in England around this time, a late crop of small red flowers starts blooming on people’s lapels, in a poetic echo of events on Flanders Fields in World War I. This is the annual Poppy Appeal, sponsored by the Royal British Legion to raise funds to support members of British armed forces and their families. This year, the Legion sold 46 million poppies, an all-time record in close to 90 years of the tradition. The annual poppy crop continues increasing until Remembrance Sunday, when the UK holds its annual ceremony to honor those who have fallen in battle.
My husband and I spent this Sunday morning watching the somber ceremony in London, led by Queen Elizabeth II and attended by thousands. Of all the stories I heard today, the one that brought me to tears is that of young Royal Marine Mark Omrod. In 2007, on a tour in Afghanistan, Mark was so severely injured that he lost both legs and his right arm. The only member of British forces’ to come home a triple amputee, Mark could have given up the fight. Instead, he tested his everyday courage on the battlefield in a much more personal battle.
This week, Mark completed a 63-day race across America, on prosthetic legs. The Gumpathon, which finished in Santa Monica on Veterans’ Day, was created by Colour Sergeant Damian Todd to raise money to help the wounded and ill in the Forces, and their families, through their recovery.
Today, as I watch those who have survived unspeakable hardship honor those who have not survived, I am humbled by their uncommon humanity. Today, in the remnants of my own recent emotional dry spell, I am in awe of these whose daily courage – global and personal – allows me to take their principles for granted. Today, with my own husband working alongside them, it has never struck me so deeply.
The choices I have made in my life have caused many of my friends to tell me I am courageous. Yet for me, what they call courage has often felt an awful lot like fear. Somehow, by a grace beyond me, I have managed to keep going; and every day has become sweeter through it all.
As we move around the Wheel of Creativity, our choices define us. It is not necessarily the choices that produce the biggest results that make or break the quality of our lives, but the choices we make in response to things we cannot control. On that sometimes stony ground, Life’s creative impulse either takes root in us and blooms or lies stillborn at the gate.
What does your life ask from you today that requires your courage? How will you respond?