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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly - Day 28

Set the world on fire without burning it up.

My older brother and I performed many, many experiments throughout our childhood. We spent long hours hovered over a microscope lens trying to identify the pond water bacteria swimming on our slide. We verified, as many of you already know, that cats, when dropped, almost always land on their feet. And we set a few fires in the name of scientific discovery.

Since he is two years my senior, and I blamed him for most everything else, I will just go ahead and say that most of our devious laboratory plots were his idea. I went along as his impressionable, and intensely eager to be persuaded, Igor. And this next tidbit I share from our history is only but one example of many:

Where my brother came up with this idea, I'll never know. I doubt he even remembers. But he sent his Igor out to gather supplies: a large piece of Styrofoam from a recently delivered appliance box, rubbing alcohol from the medicine cabinet, and matches from the kitchen drawer. Naturally, he sent me because who, after all, would suspect a blond, curly-headed girl of any hidden agenda?

When I returned to him with the loot, he swore me to secrecy or death by noogies. I chose secrecy and have confessed to no one, until now. But the story has relevance to living fearlessly and must be told. Anyway, he carefully poured the alcohol on the surface of the Styrofoam and stepped well away from it. Then he told me to prepare to be amazed and struck a match. I was prepared to run for help, but he interpreted my wide-eyed stare as one of awe and respect. Which prompted him to flick the match at the Styrofoam.

Whoolfsh! A blaze shot up and burned hot, traveling the path of the alcohol. It was absolutely brilliant. I couldn't believe we were about to burn down our house in this most impressive way. Our parents were going to kill us for sure this time. We whooped and hollered to get as much out of the moment as we possibly could before meeting our end.

Just as my brother suspected, but I did not, the blaze burned itself out, leaving the Styrofoam slightly melted, but no other damage. "Let's do it again," he conspiratorially whispered.

The point of my story is not that we were wickedly sneaky children. Nor is my point that we had no remorse, because for the next week I rode under the radar, sure that my mother knew what we had done and was waiting for the perfect moment to inflict enough guilt on my young shoulders to hunch me over like a real Igor. The point is that we, you and I, can set the world on fire without taking other people down in our ascent to the top.

It is the person afraid of failing who steps on the backs of others to get where she is going. It is the person afraid that she can't make it by her own talent, who betrays those who trust her. It is the person afraid of how she compares to others that gossips and backstabs and sneaks in back doors. This kind of woman, the one who is afraid, still sets the world on fire, but she leaves a blackened, burned path behind her.

But the fearless woman believes in herself and she values the people around her. The fearless woman knows how to set the world ablaze without burning her bridges. The fearless woman never gossips to get ahead, never compromises her integrity, never offers false friendship, never portrays her motives as something other than what they are. She is not afraid of not getting to where she wants to go.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Try the experiment (using the proper precautions that we didn't). Prove to yourself that it can be done on a small scale. Then apply the lesson to your life.

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