Bystander’s Heroism


There is a heroism in witnessing and loving stories. It’s so easy to love someone you don’t know, and the best loved are the flawed characters whom you will love truly and cannot save.

And there is heroism in daring to read stories that end in tragedy. That someone so intimately loved and wanted couldn't make good our offerings and left us instead. The glaring realization that even the sincerest love can be not-good-enough, cements warning signs for future failures. Never again would any of us repeat that mistake of loving too much and too selfishly, for the example and hurt will forever be fresh and near our minds. Near enough for us to know the danger signs and to realize when to pull back. Near enough to fear it, that we create a different, shinier kind of protective (s)hell for ourselves. Anything but that kind of misery.

Our lives were meant to cross each others' so that progress might happen. You hear stories about children eloping and war and diseases, never considering the thought that they might be one of yours. If it were your mother who was a whore, would you have spoken so lightly of prostitutes? If it were your brother who shot himself, would you have belittled depression? If you were the one who failed, would you ever laugh at other people's stumbles and falls?

That. That is the intermingling gift in stories, for both the teller and listener. The reason why some of us might make it very well, or make it very differently from the rest of their kin, and the stories that have made it possible for every kind to be okay.

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