Thoughts about courage and inspirational stories about people who rose above tragedies, losses and disasters
byElizabeth A. Garcia-Janis MD
Book Cover & Preview Text
The courage to respond
Courage is born out of the greatest of fears.
And courage is also gleaned out of the greatest of disasters and tragedies. To encourage our courage within is nothing less than divine. For in the midst of darkness, pulling from within our souls that light of valiance requires more than just our humanity. In times of utter powerlessness, desperation, and sense of loss, many of us who have experienced tragedies and disasters know we must look up, with bended knees, towards a higher source. We supplicate a power greater than ourselves to give us back that anchorage of peace and serenity within our hearts and souls. We look up to a force that could save us from a sense of impious annihilation and merciless oblivion during rock-bottom times.
Courage is the ability to suppress fear.
It does not mean that fear is non-existent. An element of fear may exist at the base of courage. However, whereas courage is irrepressible, fear can be subdued. To have courage, one must disregard fear, or even ignore it, during certain moments of one’s life. There are those sterling souls who, somehow, not only survive disasters and tragedies but also go beyond and use their life experiences to give light, strength and hope to others. These people are able to accept their fears and still go on to inspire those who may be discouraged. This book is about people who discovered their inner valor; and those who uplifted others, and still continue to do so with their light from within. I like to call them the Phoenix Miracle People. Just like the Phoenix Bird told of in legends, they rise up and once again go to the skies. And I firmly believe that all of us can be such people. All of us can manifest the courage to encourage, and can experience the fact that we’ve answered one of the highest callings that life can offer us.
I long to humbly and lovingly share with you, the readers of these words, my reflections about the astounding ability of people to go beyond their most tragic experiences. It is my hope to encourage the grace and understanding that courage is within all of us. And that sometimes, even if we think we cannot handle it anymore because of our fears, we will always find that ray of courage, not only for ourselves but also for others.
To encourage is a miracle of the giving spirit. To encourage is to give of our selves, and more. To encourage is to give courage; that is, to help others disregard the persistent fears which block their souls from truly living. I cannot give anyone courage if I do not muster up valor from within first. I cannot give what I do not have; even if I want to.
It is a vital gift from the heart. When we give others what has been given to us from a greater source, we give of ourselves. I believe that courage is there even when we do not think we have any. Like a dormant volcano that awakens now to pour out its molten lava, courage rises when the heat is there.
Most mothers or fathers I know would have the courage to stand up to anyone or anything if their child was in a dangerous situation that required them to respond to save that child. That energy of valor is always there within us. Our spirits decide when to let it rise and at what needed time.
During a time when significant losses of loved ones and a tragedy devastated my whole extended family, I remembered a poignantly tender moment with Jacqueline, my daughter. Jackie came up to me when she saw me crying and looked me directly in my eyes and sadly yet tenderly said, “Mom, I need for you to be okay.” I looked at my daughter’s thoughtful face. Just the way she said that; the way she looked at me; the way the mother-child bonding dominated that moment to its very depth; the way her eyes spoke way more than words could ever express about what must be old-soul wisdom.
My mind flashed back to the time when she was still a baby. I used to sing lullabies for her while cradling her to sleep on my wood and wicker rocking chair. That incredible moment of recognition her words evoked struck a chord in my heart.
At times those delicate moments come through with ‘necessary jolts’ during very emotionally charged times. There was something profound that instinctively clicked in me as I looked at her lovable face with those big angelic brown eyes. My child. My daughter. She needed for me to be okay. So she can also be okay. It was like a light of spiritual clarity from out of nowhere instantly went through me. Or perhaps, out of somewhere.
It felt urgent for me to find the courage within to face whatever I needed to face. And somehow I knew that there was a bigger scheme of things beyond our human scope and understanding. It was an arrival towards acceptance of the things I could not change. Because I had to be alright, and needed to be alright for the good of the people I love and who love me.
When the courage to face what seems impossible to face rises up, it releases its heat only to make ground for fertile lands of serenity and peace. There is ‘spiritual heat’ within the bounds of courage. It takes on an energy that propels us to do things we never thought we could. Especially when it has to do with helping or ensuring the well-being of the people we love and care for. My daughter triggered that spiritual heat within me. For love is the energy of the spirit. It was that spirit of love that cast away my fears enough to face life on life’s terms again.
It was a “necessary jolt” for my soul to wake up. It came clear to me that how I responded to our family situation would greatly impact how my daughter, my son and the rest of my family would be. And there is just something about our love for our children that goes beyond explanation, that gives us the courage to do and handle just about anything to make sure that they feel safe and loved. This book will reflect upon the courage to love God and people through the acts of loving encouragement of others. Erich Fromm, in his brilliantly classic book The Art of Loving, wrote, “Unconditional love corresponds to one of the deepest longings, not only of the child, but of every human being.” Love and courage go hand in hand. They are partners to cultivate our strength and ability to go beyond our human limits. Together, love and courage empower our spirits to soar. And when our spirits soar, that is when we truly feel the inner abundance of serving others through the encouragements we offer them.
The Courage to Encourage hopes to remind us that we all have the ability to soar beyond our losses, tragedies and disasters. More so, we have within us the divine spark to give the world our light, compassion and love from what we have experienced in our lives. As we lift others up to give them unwavering hope, our spirits are emboldened to continue facing life with utmost courage.
About the Author
Elizabeth A. Garcia-Janis MD DFAPA is a double board certified Child and Adult Psychiatrist who has dedicated her life serving those who suffered disasters, losses and tragedies. Dr. Garcia-Janis has served as a medical director and chief medical officer in several psychiatric organizations. She has volunteered in various parts of the world doing disaster relief work - during the Philippines Mt. Pinatubo volcanic eruption, the Katrina evacuees in Houston, the tsunami in Thailand, the Nicaraguan refugees in Costa Rica and uplifted clean water for the world in Uganda.
Dr. Garcia-Janis founded the Phoenix Global Humanitarian Foundation. This is a non-profit organization whose mission is to serve those who suffered disasters, losses and tragedies. PhoenixGlobalHumanitarian.org