As I work from home with children ages 12, 9, 6 and 1, I find my mind wandering to the Serenity Prayer attributed to theologian Reinhold Neibuhr: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” While every part of this prayer is important, I am particularly drawn to one word in light of our current global pandemic: courage. But what does courage mean?
Strength in the face of pain or grief.
Covid-19 flooding into our communities has changed all of our lives significantly in the span of a few weeks. For most of us, this change was unwelcome and painful. For some of us, this change is nearly intolerable. Not all of us will share the same experience in this pandemic, but all of our experiences are important and meaningful. Some of us will face greater challenges and deeper losses. Some of our challenges will be primarily economic, while others will become sick. All of us will need to face our challenges with courage and be kind to others facing their own challenges.
The ability to control your fear in a dangerous or difficult situation.
We do not get to pick our circumstances, but we can all choose to bloom where we are planted. For some, that means wanting to regain a sense of normalcy. For others, that may mean learning how to work from home or coping with the loss of a job or income.
As your County Attorney, I encourage you to follow the Governor’s emergency orders, but I also reassure you that your freedoms are not being taken away. The guidance provided by the Department of Public Safety is that citations are not intended to be issued for all violations, but only for those who refuse all opportunities to respond to education from law enforcement. We must continue to seek wisdom together and not make decisions out of fear. My office has not had to charge anyone for such a violation up to this point thanks to your responsible behavior.
Mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.
Courage is not reserved for the battlefield or the boardroom. Now more than ever it is everyday courage that is needed, such as the courage to use our time wisely to learn a new skill or accomplish a new project. Facing the uncertainties of this pandemic, both political and personal, it is a courageous act to simply choose to be happy and positive.
Groups such as the Milaca Community Coalition and Mille Lacs Area Partners for Prevention have shown this courageous optimism for years. While these groups inspired by the work of Dr. Jeff Linkenbach are mostly focused on youth alcohol prevention, the lessons of Dr. Linkenbach’s Science of the Positive can inspire us all:
“Dare to see things as they really are, in order to embrace the future with the intention and willingness to believe something wonderful is about to happen.”
Refuse to be controlled by fear. Do your best to gain wisdom about how the world really is. Then search for the positive about our shared future. Acts of courage and positivity in a world overrun with fear and negativity are revolutionary acts.
Joe Walsh is the Mille Lacs County Attorney.