Category: Campfire Conversation

Heroes Have Open Hands

We all hold onto things. When we think of heroes holding things, we think of Katniss holding her bow, Luke Skywalker his lightsaber, Hermione her wand.

But that is not all these heroes ‘held’ onto. Katniss held onto her personal responsibility, Luke his doubt, and Hermione her books… to a fault. In order to become the heroes they were, each had to open their hands.

We all hold onto ideas and habits and tools all the time in relation to the world us and the world inside us. The idea of ‘open hands’ is important for all heroes… including you! Here are three reasons why.

Letting Go

Before becoming a hero, a person needs to open their hands and let go of that which is holding them back. Be it a self-conceived notion (‘I’m not good enough’), someone who is holding them back (‘You’ve never supported me and my passion’), a past activity (‘All this screen watching isn’t helping me’), or something physical (‘Time to get rid of this junk!’) – heroes first open their hands to let go, to empty themselves of the past habits or beliefs.

When your hands are full in a physical, mental or emotional way, you’ll be hard pressed to fill them up with what a hero needs.

Filling Up

All heroes (at some point) keep their hands open to that which is next – the teaching, the self-knowledge, the journey and adventure ahead. This is not an easy thing to do, by the way. A lot of time, the learning process is painful.

In the hero’s journey, most of these lessons come at the hand of a wise guide. Harry Potter had Professor Dumbledore (and Hermione quite often). Luke had Obi-wan and Yoda. Katniss had Hamish. All of these mentors helped to guide by asking the right (and tough) questions, reframe what was important, and getting the young budding hero to reach past what they previously thought possible.

In all of these cases, the heroes not only filled their minds and hearts with new knowledge, they also picked up tools to use in the pursuit of their mission.

In the stories, our heroes often pick up a weapon of some sort. While that happens in real-life, too, most heroes pick up other implements. William Wilberforce picked up a pen. So did Anne Frank. Einstein picked up a pencil and calculator and a train schedule. Mrs. Parks picked up her resolve and shared her voice.

But that is not all they do with open hands. Heroes, time and again, reach out to others.

Reaching Out

A hero is not all about him or herself. Heroic action is always taken on behalf of others. This is when all heroes (including you!!) are at their most powerful. In fact, Karol Wojtyla suggested that “it is precisely when one becomes a gift for other that one most fully becomes oneself.” (You may recognize Cardinal Wojtyla by a different name.)

In all of our heroes’ quests, they are for a greater good than treasure or accolades for themselves. Frodo wanted to save his friends and return home to the Shire. Marie Curie wanted to discover something that would help millions. Mother Teresa gave (quite literally) the shoes from her feet to the needy, along with everything else.

It is in the moments when we truly serve others that we find our own contentment and our true measure. In order to serve, you’ve got to reach out first. And, if your hands are ‘full’ with other things, others will have a very hard time gaining a good grasp.

Challenging and Rewarding

Make no mistake, being a hero is no easy task. The term ‘hero’ is reserved for someone who truly goes above and beyond the call of being a human being, or even a ‘good’ one. (I mean ‘good’ in the oldest sense of the word.)

You have to get past the self-possession we all battle and literally put yourself on the line for others. That is what Dr. King did. Same with Mother Teresa. And Lincoln. And Mrs. Parks.

What are some things you want to let go? It’s hard to even know. Self-knowledge is actually pretty difficult because it requires us to stop fooling ourselves. But knowing ourselves, per Aristotle, is the beginning of all wisdom. This is where that sage, mentor, counselor comes in. They can see things in you that you cannot see for yourself. They can help you drop the things that are unimportant or harmful and fill your hands with what you need to reach out to those around you.

Young Hero, open your hands. They are going to be very useful – and needed – going forward.

Have a great weekend!

Performing or Living

We all spend a good bit of time on social media. Whether it’s Insta, TikTok, Snap, Facebook… it absorbs a lot of our time.  We spend most of that time watching rather than producing or commenting. In the supposedly social world online, we are consumers more than anything else.

Sometimes, we put our own thoughts, videos or comments ‘out there’ for others to consume. Hopefully, they react positively, showering our output with favorable reviews, likes, or, even better, comments and shares. Sometimes, we get the opposite: negative reviews. Sometimes it’s even worse – no response at all.

Performing

In these situations, regardless of the outcome, we are performing, aren’t we? We are putting some form of performance out into the medium to which, we hope, others will react. We are hoping to delight, confound, inform, entertain, or shout down.

Shakespeare has a widely known quote about this idea of performance:

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players….”

The same can be said for our homes, classrooms, offices or bunks. Do we play the class clown? What about the studious one? Do we play the martyr. How about the ‘glitter’ or the ‘glue?’

Coming through middle school, I decided I’d play ‘the nice one.’ It helped me with the teachers, certainly, though it didn’t play as well with the other kids. Thankfully, I had two fantastic friends who stuck with me no matter what so it didn’t matter what the others said or thought.

Living

But what happens when we stop performing? When we drop the mask?

‘No [one], for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.’

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Normally, we drop the mask around those who make us feel most safe, the most like ourselves. It’s not about what you are trying to be for others’ approval or expectations. It’s just about being who we actually are.

That’s when we start really living.

Think about the times when you’ve been the most alive, the most excited to be yourself without exception or concern or fear or embellishment. Was it when you rocked a test? How about when you competed and won… or come up just short? Maybe it was in your bunk at camp surrounded by your people.

Looking back over my life to this point, I clearly see the times I wore a mask and performed: my first semester in college, the first graduate course I took as an undergrad, when I wanted to impress a young lady, my first (and second) summer running camp. None of those situations went well.

Lessons Make Us

Without those lessons, I could never have truly learned what makes me come alive.

What are those, you ask? For me, it’s spending time around the campfire with our campers and staff, wrestling with my boys, sitting on the couch with Kate and talking about something we’ve read or listened to, helping a young person grow into a competent, confident adult, cooking something really good….

Do I still perform from time to time? Yes. But those moments are much fewer and further between. And, I’m much better about recognizing those moments, dropping the mask, and returning to the living.

Performing all the time is exhausting. You’ve got to think about the audience, gauge their reactions and change accordingly. It’s a constant juggle and struggle in which even victories are tiring.

Instead, spend more time on being who you are right now or the person you are striving to be. (For example, I’m striving to be a person who eats more salads!) The people in your life who really matter will love you and support you and push you in all the right ways.

Who you are and who you will become is worthy of that love and support and pushing. So, let’s drop our masks, just be ourselves and enjoy it.

Have a great weekend.

(A great book on this subject is Awareness by Anthony De Mello.)