Truly courageous people

Published 4:32 pm Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I looked up “Courageous People” on my computer and had no problem finding many Top Ten lists. The names were recognizable and on the list because they had done something of note in history.

There are also many courageous people whose names you would not recognize. Those names might be of men and women who wear uniforms of all colors while serving us in so many ways.

Then there are the people who we see every day attending church or working in their professions despite serious illnesses that call for treatments that are almost as challenging as the illnesses they seek to cure. We feel empathy for these ordinary people, but it’s almost impossible to imagine the ongoing sickness they incur as they are trying to get well.

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These people try, with great courage, to continue serving their families and doing the things that most of us take for granted. Food doesn’t taste good anymore. There is hardly a day that goes by when they feel normal. Yet, day after day, they stand tall and say, “I’m doing fine.” I’m impressed with their spirit and their courage and I know many people like that.

Recently my Class of 1967 began the process of planning for their 50th Reunion. We had a small class at Pelham High School and someone brought a yearbook from our senior year. The first person listed from our class was a fellow by the name of Jay Autry. When I think of Jay I think of one of the most courageous persons I have ever known.

Back in those days polio was a great fear. Many people contracted that virus and Jay had a terrible case. He had a neck brace that kept his head upright and leg braces on both legs. He was small in stature but it did not take long to see that Jay would take a backseat to no one in our class. He wanted no one’s sympathy even though he could barely walk.

He wasn’t angry about his disability and wasn’t defensive. In fact Jay was more likely to pull an innocent joke on someone than just about anyone in the class. He asked for no special treatment and our class learned not to give any.

If ever there was an acceptance of someone for who they were, the Class of 1967 in Pelham accepted Jay Autry just as he was. He made that easy on us and I never thought of courage and Jay in the same sentence until he had died many years ago. Then I realized he had lived a full life in spite of being dealt a pretty tough hand.

That might be a good definition of the courage of which I am speaking. Living life to its fullness in spite of the challenges that come our way. That’s courage.

After high school, Jay Autry was freed from his braces and he was able to amble around without them. You would never guess the type of work that Jay did in spite of his polio.

His family dealt in pulpwood. They cut it and loaded it on semi-trucks. Used to load the wood were big front-end loaders that were almost like bulldozers. We all thought it took a “man” to work in that business and guess who was driving one of those front-end loaders every day. Jay Autry!

I don’t how he would get up on the big machine, but somehow he did. Jay Autry never sought heroism or courage. He just lived his life and never felt sorry for himself. So do lots of other people and I salute them!