Backroads: Hope and Courage for the New Year

The definition of “courage”

Christmas is over and thoughts of New Year’s resolutions are still fresh in my head. Never mind that last year’s resolution of losing some extra pounds is still with me. The slate is clean and I get another do-over for 2020… right after the last of the holiday candy is consumed! 

Everyone’s goal in 2020 should be to encourage those who need it most.  It doesn’t cost a thing; just a few words or a simple act of kindness determines whether a person gives up or is motivated to move forward.      

I’ll give you an example. The Backroads newspaper was in its fifth year when the unthinkable happened. On the morning of March 20, 1986, I left to deliver newspapers to the advertisers supporting the paper and when I came home… there was no home. A fire had completely destroyed the structure. Standing at the top of the driveway, looking down at the charred remains, I’ve never had such a sinking feeling of loss.  

People were generous, giving us gifts to start over, but I had doubts about continuing the newspaper. I lost my camera, typewriter, and everything else needed to run my business. The worst lick was losing all the photographs of the people I had interviewed over the years. It was all so overwhelming and everyone said, “Take six months off,” but I knew if I stopped, even for a few months, the Backroads was finished.

The tattered old dictionary

While I was in this despondent mood, a package arrived in my mailbox. It had my name printed on it and was wrapped in plain brown paper, tied with string. I sat on the steps of our new place and unwrapped what appeared to be a book. Closer inspection revealed a well-worn college edition of The Random House Dictionary of the English Language with a note attached that said, “Don’t quit the Backroads!”  The note was unsigned and at that moment, something rose up inside of me:a strength I had never known and gave me the courage to begin again. But that’s not the end of the story. Ten years later, as I was thumbing through the tattered dictionary, I came upon two words that were previously highlighted and underlined that I had never noticed before; HOPE and COURAGE. 

Let me tell you how the dictionary defined those two words and what they meant to me, ten years after the fire.  

HOPE: “The feeling that what is desired is also possible or that events may turn out for the best.  To look forward to, with desire and reasonable confidence. To continue to hope although the situation does not warrant it.”  

COURAGE: “The quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty and danger with firmness and without fear. Courage permits a person to face difficulties with daring, boldness and bravery.”  And with God’s protective hand, that’s exactly what happened.

One day my husband asked to borrow my dictionary.  He was appalled at its shabby appearance and commented that maybe I needed a new one.  “No,” I told him, “I don’t want a replacement.  I’ll just tape the spine back together and it will hold.”  I admit that it looks pretty bad, but I cannot bring myself to part with the old book. It came at a time when I needed it most, from an insightful person I never knew but always loved for what they took the time to do.  

Because of that one caring act, the Backroads newspaper not only finished a 25-year run, but six books about our area’s mountain culture came in the ten years that followed and are now preserved for future generations.

Make the encouraging words of HOPE and COURAGE part of your New Year’s resolutions and give of them freely. 


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