“Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God[b] is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)
Fortitude. According to my Dictionary app, it means having the “mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously.”
In other words, like the Cowardly Lion in the “Wizard of Oz,” sometimes we have to put up our dukes and fight our way through circumstances that impede our progress toward living our true and authentic lives.
Sometimes we need role models to show us what this looks like. We find them in the Bible, in literature and in life. Often we find them in those closest to us.
One person I have always admired is my friend, Margaret. I know no one who is as true to her sense of self as she.
From the trials of her escape from Hungary in 1956 as the Soviet tanks rolled in to the ways she has dealt with personal tragedy, to her strongly held personal and political convictions, Margaret is one of the bravest persons I have ever encountered.
She knows who she is, what brings her pleasure and what she is and is not willing to tolerate. She speaks her mind, she loves with her entire heart and at nearly 82, she has a lively and enquiring mind that is as sharp as when I met her 47 years ago.
We were an unlikely friendship pairing, the 18-year-old young woman who was me taking her first steps into a larger world and the 35-year-old married mother of two who was my supervisor at one of my first “adult” jobs.
I was quiet and reserved. She was outgoing with a great and ready laugh. I had met only one other person who came to the U.S. from a foreign country – my German teacher Mr. Sturmer. Her Hungarian accent was still thick but her command of English – learned from watching soap operas in her early years here – was excellent.
I was a backwards rural Indiana girl. She was a cosmopolitan woman from Budapest who had been politically active in her country.
My steps into my adult life were tentative. Older by 17 years, she was more sure-footed about who she was and what she wanted – what she deserved from life.
Once I joined the Navy in 1972, I would be accused of being the feminist she actually was. With her I would take my first trip to a metropolitan city – Chicago – and fall in love with my first art museum and the Impressionist works I saw there. My first Renoir. My first Monet.
(It is still our habit when traveling together to visit museums of all kinds. In fact, as I write this I realize I have traveled more places with Margaret than any other person with the exception of my son.)
Whenever life has given me lemons, it has always been Margaret who has helped me buck up and make some sort of lemonade as a result. Just by letting me know she was always there for me. Just by letting me know she always cared.
I am privileged to know four generations of women from her family. Like Margaret, they are all strong individualists, goal oriented and intensely interested in the world and those they encounter in it. Their interests are varied but deep, as are their connections to one another.
If Margaret were a saint, with her great love of all things flora and arboreal, she would be St. Dorothy, the patroness of gardeners. A Master Gardener, Margaret roundly berated me on a visit to my then husband and I in California years ago because I knew nothing about the indigenous plants that grew there.
Her yard in Florida is filled with native plants, and I once spent an evening learning more than I ever wanted to know about avocado growing at one of her Exotic Fruit Club’s monthly meetings. And tasting some fruit that deserved to stay exotic and off the grocery shelves, imho.
But as with the entirety of my friendship with Margaret, it was an adventure.
While the Lord is my Shepherd and my Shield, Margaret is the person who stands by my side and tells me I am up to all challenges that come my way.
And if I ever forget that, I have only to look for inspiration at the life she has led – one of fortitude in all that defines it.