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Finding courage at 3 a.m.

This article is being written on a rainy, gloomy morning. The rain is needed, but the gloom is not. I am thinking about two older adults with serious health problems and one younger adult with a serious problem of depression. Their names are off the record here and off the record in private discussion. They represent many with serious physical and mental health problems.

We saw a recent drama about Winston Churchill in the late years of his career as prime minister of England. He had a stroke and was sent home to rest and recover. The public had no idea how serious his condition was. But Churchill and his family did.

It was suggested that the highest level of courage is courage at 3 a.m., when, amid sickness or discouragement, a person is alone in the dark amid worry and despair, and they somehow find the will to go on. It is the strength to continue when you don't have any more strength.

General Ulysses S. Grant found it when everyone around him told him that the brilliant Robert E. Lee and his Confederate Army were about to divide and conquer Grant's Union Army.

"Quit telling me what the enemy is going to do to us," he said, "and start telling me what we are going to do to him."

Churchill had courage at 3 a.m. He had an attitude that he expressed as "keep buggering on." Buggering is a British slang expression that we don't have. It is an expletive that means "bumbling on." They will refer to a bumbler as a "silly bugger" and say, "He's buggering it up." So, in effect, he was saying let's keep bumbling ahead — don't quit.

Back to the seriously ill and depressed. Some of them find themselves at 3 a.m. Where is the courage supposed to come from? Courage can come entirely from inside, from faith and character. But usually not. Often, it's more than that — it can come from family, friends, visits, favors, meals, prayers, support and love.

So, this article is not as much for the suffering as for their families, friends and supporters. We must do all we can. We must "keep buggering on" in whatever clumsy ways we can go about it. We can help generate courage when it's needed most.

(Order Lynn Hummel's new book, The Last Word (171 articles, 310 pages) by sending $15 plus $3 postage ($10 plus postage for additional books) to Pony Express Books, 1948 Long Bridge Road, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501, or order at: