May you speak and act with confidence and use courage to find your own path.
Penny phoned from Oklahoma to share her story. For 20 years, while raising her children and managing her husband’s office, Penny felt there was something more she was supposed to do with her life. Like many women, she joked, “I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.”
One day Penny overheard someone ask her teenage daughter, “What does your mom do?”
“She runs,” her daughter answered.
“She’s a professional runner?”
“Oh, no,” her daughter laughed. “She runs stuff. She runs my dad’s business. She runs our home. She runs me around. She runs everything.”
That was a wake up incident for Penny, nudging her to find her something more.
After months of researching and reflecting, Penny went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. There, she had an epiphany. For years, whenever Penny heard complaints about the weather, the economy, and the limitations in Muskogee, she wished someone would help people appreciate the richness of the heartland community. In Jerusalem, Penny heard an inner voice say, Why not you, Penny?Everywhere is holy land. Penny decided to go home and do what she had wanted someone to do.
Even though Penny had no training or experience in television, she felt led to produce and host a morning show that would feature the talent, beauty, strength – the gifts – of local residents. After writing a plan, she met with a banker who gave her a litany of reasons why her inspirational show would fail. He then stood to signal the end of the meeting and said, “I hope I have deterred you, Penny, because you won’t last a week.”
Choking back tears, Penny responded, “On the contrary. You have convinced me: I absolutely need to do this!”
Penny encountered many such obstacles along the way and conceded that the banker was right…about some things. She was naïve; she made mistakes. But, she also learned.
“Most importantly, I learned to use courage to be myself,” she said.
According to Penny, her first taped shows were awful. “I was stiff and fake, trying to play the role of a TV interviewer.” But, when Penny did her first live show, she spoke from her heart and discovered the power of being herself.
One day a jazz band was among her guests. Ten minutes before the show, in a moment alone, Penny heard a song forming in her mind; I’ve got the positive bluuuuues. I see the glass half fullll, and laughed. A moment later an inner voice said, Sing it on air, Penny. Penny had not sung out loud in front of others since she was a child. Whenever she sang at church, she did it softly so she wouldn’t be heard by those around her.
Penny told the band about the song and asked if they would give her back up.
“We’re with you, Penny. Go for it!” they urged.
The show started. Penny planned to introduce the song after the break. But during that break, she felt a twinge of fear. So did her husband. In fact, her husband was so afraid that she would embarrass herself that he left the studio. His reaction led her to question herself.
“I have a terrible singing voice. He didn’t think I should take the risk. I almost didn’t. In the past I wouldn’t have. But this time I knew: I had to ignore the fear and sing!”
Penny did sing on air that day. When she did, she took a huge step in reclaiming her voice and restoring wholeness on her hero’s journey.
Penny ended our call by saying something that made me think hard about who I am and how I see myself; I’ll share it here: “Each of us is a magnificent creation. But we’re all so afraid to let people see who we really are. How often do we discourage one another instead of celebrating efforts? How often do we turn from watching an awkward child dance? How often do we avoid eye contact when a person speaks nervously? Who said we have to have pretty voices to sing? In heaven all our voices sound beautiful!”
For reflection, journaling and discussion:
1. With each act of courage that Penny makes on the path of her heroic journey, –with each one that you and I make— we are all affected. When one person is even slightly freed and healed, we are all advanced. 2. Recall a time when you used courage to “follow your own path.” 3. Consider your dreams. Is there something you feel called to do that you have not yet acted upon? 4.How might you nurture your dreams with courage?