The Courage to Change the Things I Can

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2014 Nancy Virden

photo-26229816-1119202014-holiday-cats-11Cinnamon the cat was a few weeks old when he was given to my youngest son. As he grew, his favorite game was hide-n-seek (Ok, that could be my son or the cat).

Cinnamon’s form of the game was to squeeze under chairs and bat at passing feet. For fourteen years, we didn’t know when those paws would catch us.

Cinnamon could be a fighter. One day, the neighbor’s German Shepherd saw Cinnamon crossing under the fence and into the dog’s territory. Within seconds, the scene was a little yellow cat, back arched, hissing at a crazily barking and threatening opponent ten times his size. I called to Cinnamon, but of course he could not leave his spot at the moment, so I called out to the dog’s owner.

It wasn’t necessary. The dog hovered just a little too close above Cinnamon’s head and out flew those kitty paws. “Yelp!” One swipe of his claws across the big beast’s nose and the cat was home free.

It had seemed from the outside that the little guy was sure to lose that battle. However, Cinnamon had the courage to change odds to his favor. If he had not acted, only God knows what would have been the end to this story.

Far from that day both in time and distance, a small circle of faces take turns glancing about the room then staring at the floor. Feet shuffle; one can hear the occasional cough or cleared throat. Sincere hellos break the silence with each new entrance. Metal folding chairs are squeezed more closely together to make room- there is always space for one more. Strangers and regular attenders alike are welcome.

Precisely on the hour, someone greets everyone with a smile. “This is a meeting of _______Anonymous. I am_______and I will be your leader tonight. Are there any other [addicts] here besides me?”

The title of this post is the second line of the famous Serenity Prayer, read and quoted and lifted to God in desperate hope during anonymous meetings around the globe. Quality decisions are made to deal with life on life’s terms as people in the process of change practice courage.

Elsewhere, in a small office, several volunteers stuff donation requests into envelopes with hope of raising enough cash to make a significant difference for their cause. A church basement across town is a scene of organized chaos as bags of clothes, toys, and food are sorted and prepared for giving to the poor. Across the oceans, courage rallies to bring clean water to whole villages.

Cinnamon might have thought himself a lion. People trying to build new lives are probably less sure of themselves. Having courage to change what we can for the human race may mean giving up something we want. There will always be the ferocious and scary looming over our heads, we are only in charge of our response.

We have the claws to fight back. Discovering how to use them is brave.


NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

**picture from


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