I've written a lot about the courage of American World War II nurses, but this week I discovered the heroism of a Canadian nurse, and learned the story of her valiant effort to save a friend after a torpedo attack by the Germans.
I also discovered how taking a step or two out of my comfort zone can generate courage, and I witnessed an amazing step toward peace and reconciliation. It was quite a week after last week's violence combined with my historical photo research.
In ten years as a television news reporter I attended scores of demonstrations.
Often when there was a protest, there were protesters protesting the protest.
Never once did I see the two sides come together as I did last week at Spokane, Washington's #BlackLivesMatter rally. But that's what's happening in this photo.
An African American pastor asked the crowd to stop reacting to a heckler, then invited the heckler up for a hug. Later, the head of the local NAACP offered the protester the mic and him speak, while the crowd listened respectfully.
Before the end of the rally, those who came to say #BlackLivesMatter, walked to police headquarters and gathered at the memorial for fallen police officers. With a moment of silence and a prayer they demonstrated #BlueLivesMatter, too.
The spirit of the rally moved me. I found myself in tears several times as speakers talked of justice, and of healing divisions, of valuing all lives, of ending violence and working toward understanding.
I came away empowered, empowered not to be silent in the face of trouble, but also, not to be strident and not to be judgmental.
Opportunity immediately presented itself!
Empowered not to be silent in the face of trouble, but also, not to be strident and not to be judgmental.
Isn't it funny how that is? This week my personal life offered me the chance to climb down off my high horse, lay down my sword and shield and make the first move toward dialogue. Yes, it was scary. I was afraid I might makes things worse. I was afraid I might get hurt.
But at the rally, I had joined the chant silence is consent to the status quo. And I found myself braver than I ever knew I could be.
Which brings me to Canadian WWII Nurse Margaret Brooke and the fact that sometimes you can summon your greatest courage and still fail in your task.
When the German torpedo slammed against the passenger ferry, the SS Caribou, in the early morning darkness of October 14, 1942, Margaret and Nurse Agnes Wilke were asleep in their bunks.
Margaret and Agnes made it to the deck, but their life boat was gone.
The ship, crossing Cabot Strait off the coast of Newfoundland, sank in just five minutes, taking the women into the water.
"We were just busy staying afloat until an overturned lifeboat came along and the people on that helped us," Margaret said later. They grasped ropes, "and we just hung there."
It would be nearly two hours before rescuers arrived, and before then Agnes' strength collapsed. With one arm Margaret clung tight for her survival, and with the other she held onto her friend.
"I held her as long as I could," Margaret says. "I failed. I couldn't hold her any longer." Agnes slipped into the cold depths, one of 137 passengers and crew to die that night.
For her selfless act, Margaret Brooke was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire, and the Royal Canadian Navy has named an offshore patrol boat after her.
Okay, I'm not saying I'm a hero like Margaret Brooke, far from it. What I'm saying is that whether it's a large step or a small one, when we venture from our comfort zone, we risk failure.
And often there's a lot of failure before big change is achieved. But no matter how small, every successful step toward dialogue moves us closer to peace. Small steps also give us hope and strengthen us to take big ones.
I'm fascinated to discover little-known stories from history. Stories of people and events that provide a new perspective on why and how things happened, new voices that haven't been heard, insight into how the past brought us here today, and how it might guide us to a better future.
I also post here about my books and feature other authors and their books on compelling and important historical topics.
Occasionally, I share what makes me happy, pictures of my garden, recipes I've made, events I've attended, people I've met. I'm always happy to hear from readers, in the blog comments, by email or social media.