This past weekend, I got to represent one of my two documentaries at a film festival 10 hours from home. After the awards ceremony (my short documentary was beat out by an interesting one about the Loch Ness Monster of the Finger Lakes. If I have to lose, I like to lose to sea monsters!) I had a short conversation with a guy in a Yankees cap about creating movies and his response was so enthusiastic that I thought I ought to record the gist of it here so I can come back to it. Maybe it will speak to you. I know I am talking to myself as I give this advice.
The guy in the Yankees cap was there because his friend (a breakdancer!) had a film in the film festival.He told me there are two documentaries he has always wanted to make. He wants to make one about his cousin who lost his sight when someone shot him with a gun. He wants to make another movie about the people in his neighborhood who have to eat,
sleep, raise their kids, commute to work, walk their pets and do their shopping while surrounded by gangs and gang violence. Both of these subjects he knows and is close to in a way that many people are not. He told me he was afraid to make the film about his cousin because there are people who would do it better. I told him that he’s the only one who can make those movies. He may not have $10,000 worth of equipment and a $100,000 film school education (or a $1,000,000 film budget which, unbelievably, some independent films have) but, as someone in my film Energy of Nuns says, “They aren’t there.” Sometimes we are the only ones who can do something. In this case, “they” aren’t interested or able to make these films. This guy is. He nodded and saw that maybe this is a calling. In my own experience of 42 years on earth, many of them spent listening to other people, I believe that a calling can be identified when it is something (truly good and beautiful) that we feel drawn to do while the vast majority of people would not go near it with a 10 foot pole (for example: do you want to be a social worker in the field of pediatric hospice?). He liked what I said and called that advice “a win.” He told me that little nudge of encouragement makes him recognize he has the capability of doing these projects and most importantly, the desire to do them. That is bravery right there. Bravery is NOTHING more than recognizing our strength. Sure, we like to conjure up these mythical creatures we refer to as “they” as in “they would make a better film than me” or “they might not think this is good enough” but most of the time, there is no “they,” there is only you.
I learned recently that in Latin, the word for “brave” is the same for the word for “strong”- fortis. The reason I know this now is that my husband, who is so encouraging and supportive of me, knows that I often let myself be stymied by fear when it comes to taking on new projects through Franciscan Passages. I suggested we come up with a little phrase or word to come back to so we can “name it and claim it.” I looked up the words for strength and for bravery since it seems like what I lack at times is bravery and my husband assures me I already possess the strength I need. When I saw that “fortis” can mean either strength or bravery, I saw their connection. As my encouraging husband reminds me, I am strong. I have varied life experience, travel and education to draw from. I have good people around me, the love and support, a good track record and plenty of references after six years of giving presentations, putting together a book, putting together two movies and other projects through Franciscan Passages. So to be brave is simply to recognize strength that is already present. Pope John Paul II reminded us thousands of times that we should not be afraid. That advice resurfaces throughout the Old and the New Testaments. God knows we are full of fear. But he also made us so he knows our strength. Fear can be replaced by bravery and bravery gives us the confidence to go ahead and start something. For me, this means taking on new projects, looking at things that have been done by others and figuring out how to make them more accessible to more people. I can make a long list of things I am not and excuses for why I want to procrastinate on starting something but all of that comes from fear, not bravery. For some people, perfectionism serves as the perfect disguise for their fear. They pretend that they will take on this project or that project sometime way in the future when they have all the right tools or when the timing is just right or when the weather is right. So, perfectionism is the enemy of creativity and bravery can overcome even perfectionism…if you let it.
What does this have to do with St. Francis of Assisi?
At the end of his life, as his brothers were anxious about St. Francis’ dying, knowing they would miss his advice and guidance and leadership, he told them “The Lord has shown me what is mine to do and may he show you what is yours to do.” What freedom he gave them! He did not instruct them to carefully follow his every footstep, to emulate him or try to be a copy of him. He knew that each person, in their uniqueness (remember, God loves us individually, in our uniqueness, not just as humans in aggregate) has something to offer to others.So, quit making excuses, and go do what is yours to do.