I had a bad day on Wednesday. Someone was mean to me and it hurt my feelings. I wanted to wallow in self-pity and self-doubt and lament over how terrible life was. I climbed into bed early that evening and picked up my new book, Little Bee. I decided a story about a Nigerian girl and the British couple she met on the beach would be a nice escape for the misery that was my life.
Two days later, I am ashamed at how selfish and self-centered I am. After reading Little Bee's story, I am reminded about the real horrors of life and, more importantly, the true heros whose stories we may never know. We've been taught to believe that a hero must be larger than life; he must save the world in some outrageous gesture that lands him on the cover of People Magazine. To us, heros are people who end up with book deals, Dateline specials and a reality show (not to mention a Lifetime movie...) We reward heros, we laud their moment of action and grace, we place them on pedestals as an example of what we all should aspire to be.
Little Bee will never be a cover model. She will never be the Emcee of an awards show, she'll never walk the Red Carpet at the Espys. (I should probably point out that, yes, I realize that she is a fictional character. But, she represents so many nameless refugees whose stories have yet to be discovered.) Yet, Little Bee is a heroine. I don't want to give you any details of the story because I really want you to read the book with an open mind, as I did. But, I will say this- there are those who look at their situation and become overwhelmed. They turn in on themselves and allow whatever hardships face them to defeat them. Then there are those who accept the challenge their struggles present, who rise to face them head on, who survive. Little Bee survives.
If Little Bee and I were to trade places, I know I would not survive. And, I know, too, that Little Bee would look at my Wednesday and be grateful for all that she has- a wonderful husband who loves her, great friends, the world's best dog. It's so easy to look at all the negative in life, to focus on the mean people and the rainy weather. Little Bee doesn't ignore these facets of life, she simply chooses to accept them for what they are and to move on. Her strength comes from this acceptance and from her ability to make her own choices. Little Bee creates her fate instead of allowing others to do so. In that way, she teaches us what it truly means to live.