There are different ways to envision courage. Storybooks and news stories describe courageous heroes performing superhuman acts of strength and fortitude. Heroes liberate the oppressed; destroy enemies; and deliver a “happily ever after” ending to the story. We celebrate these victorious heroes who provide us with a feeling of safety.
Some of us have courageous heroes closer to home. We see courage in people who stood up for us; sacrificed for our well being; held us up when we could not stand alone. This courage holds a special place in our hearts because it was inspired by their love for us.
Sometimes courage comes from within. There are moments in our lives when we decide to follow a different path, a path that transforms us. We are inspired to change our life, to help others, to make the world a better place. This inspiration can come from many places including a place of pain and suffering. Sometimes courage is transforming pain into a new life.
Last Sunday, Sylvia Ruth Gutmann joined us at Open Spirit and told her story of transforming pain into a new life. It is difficult to listen to the story of Sylvia’s childhood. She was one of many Jewish children hidden and removed from Europe during the Holocaust. At the age of three, she saw her parents for the last time. At the age of seven, she arrived in New York to a foreign and difficult life. Sylvia described the fear and pain that ripped her life apart and destroyed her identity. She explained how that brokenness followed her into her adult life and relationships. And she described the healing process that she had the courage to follow to transform the pain into a life of abundant love.
Today, Sylvia is dedicated to educating people about the horrifying ramifications of hate. She travels to schools, including high schools in Germany, to tell her story. Her story is an inspiring reminder that stories from each of us can help others to heal and transform. I know that I have been changed by Sylvia’s open heart and her inner courage. During her talk, I found myself aching for the scared young child and pondering my own strength to endure. How does one find the strength? It seems that the strength comes from a place that is stronger than the hate that caused the pain. I am grateful for Sylvia’s story and the inspiration it has brought to my own journey.
Over the next several months, the Open Spirit Multi-f
aith Collaborative will continue to host speakers who exemplify inner courage. People who have been able to change course; make pain into love; and have been inspired by their faith to courageously change the world. Watch our calendar and Facebook page for these upcoming events.
Note: If you would like to read Sylvia Gutmann’s book “A Life Rebuilt: The Remarkable Transformation of a War Orphan”, you can purchase the book and follow her local speaking engagements on her website: sylviaruthgutmann.com