Sometimes it takes courage to encourage

Metal grating used as a bridge deck, or tread for a sloped ramp scares Sophie

Metal grating used as a bridge deck, or tread for a sloped ramp scares Sophie. Always has, I think, because her first exposure to it was on the bridge over Holland Creek, down toward the Trans Canada Highway. It unnerved her, being on a deck you could see through into the gully below.

So when she and I were nearing the end of a holiday hike, heading toward the parking lot of the Crofton board walk, she did her usual routine, when she encountered a mesh tread at the end of the outing.

At first she refused to go any further, approaching then backing off repeatedly; but gradually she responded to words of encouragement, then scuttled across like a cat on a freshly zambonied ice rink.

A boy and his mum, sitting on the bench in the little entrance shelter, laughed kindly at Sophie’s angst. There was nothing mean spirited in their laughter, rather they were amused and sympathetic that such a seemingly insignificant obstacle could frighten a large-ish dog.

I laughed, too, as I’d done before.

But as I continued on to the car, it occurred to me we had all missed a ‘teachable moment,’ where a best friend overcame an obstacle, which for her seemed insurmountable.

Scrolling back through the sequence I realized that Sophie first had to check the panic that was urging her to pull away and run from the thing that scared her. Then she had to listen to reason and encouragement, to edge toward it. Then she had to trust the voice that was coaxing her on. Finally, she had to summon her courage and cross-over.

We tend to think of bravery in military terms. But it doesn’t detract from the honour role of battle to recognize and celebrate other forms of courage: a shy child mustering the courage to speak her mind; a bird – or any species subject to predation – taking flight; a youngster with a disability taking his place in a classroom.

In so many cases the sequence of confronting our fears; listening to reason; trusting; and overcoming is what sets us free. The tragedy is that as often as not, people who could achieve wonderful things in their lives are mocked when what they need most is our encouragement.

Craig Spence, Editor


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