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Friday, August 31, 2007

He waited to be rescued: Lance Armstrong’s definition of courage

Lance tells this joke in his memoir:

A man is caught in a flood, and as the water rises he climbs to the roof of his house and waits to be rescued. A guy in a motorboat comes by, and says, "Hop in, I’ll save you."

"No thanks," the man on the rooftop says. "My Lord will save me."

But the floodwaters keep rising. A few minutes later, a rescue plane flies overhead and the pilot drops a line.

"No thanks," the man on the rooftop says. "My Lord will save me."

But the floodwaters rise ever higher, and finally, they overflow the roof and the man drowns.

When he gets to heaven, he confronts God.

"My Lord, why didn’t you save me?!" he implores.

"You idiot," God says, “I sent you a boat, I sent you a plane.”

In a way we are all just like the guy on the rooftop. Things take place, there is a confluence of events and circumstances, and we can’t always know their purpose, or even if there is one. But we can take responsibility for ourselves and be brave.

We each cope differently with the specter of our deaths. Some people deny it. Some numb themselves with tequila. I was tempted to do a little of each of those things. But I think we are supposed to try to face it straightforwardly, armed with nothing but courage. The definition of courage is: the quality of spirit that enables one to encounter danger with firmness and without fear.

Read one of our athlete hero stories, or read more from It’s Not about the Bike.

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