the cowboy rides awayThere have always been a couple of ways to rope me into a story; first of all, the story has to be compelling and well told. Although it’s not like I haven’t been amused by the surprise or shocking endings, the two types of stories that find purchase with my soul are the, “they lived happily ever after” stories and, “The hero rides away” type.

Everyone knows the “happily ever after” stories last about has long as it takes to walk from the theatre out to your car to find a new door ding or as long as it takes to lay down the book and walk into the next room to hear a phone ring or a message with reality rearing its ugly mug.

“The cowboy rides away” or the hero that disappears after risking life and limb for the well-being of others is a horse with different stripes. Those are the stories that grip me. The hero rides into the sunset and the legend grows. The ending where good triumphs over evil and prevails against all odds, yet the hero gains little or nothing monetarily, and still keeps his or her humility… and the hearts of the folks left behind as well as the person watching or reading the stories lives are touched forever.

I never wanted the hero to ride away as a kid – I wanted him to hang out in the new found peace and harmony to “live happily ever after.” It was an internal conflict for me at the time. I guess if I’m perfectly honest, it still is. It would be years before I could begin to grasp that the conflict inside of me was similar to the internal conflict the hero was wrestling with that the writers and characters were trying to wring from most intricate places inside me.

Some of the internal matches that couldn’t be seen were much more grueling and taxing than the ones the heroes were fighting on the outside. Even after kicking rocks on this planet for as long as I have – watching the stories, reading the stories, and living the stories, I still love the happy endings… but they’re never the end of the stories… just the end of the chapters in the bigger story of life.

In those years down here kicking up dust with the body given to me temporarily that too will end up as dust, I’ve found that it’s usually easier to be the hero and sacrifice greatly for a season and move on. That’s what legends are made up of. In real life, the hero knows that their faults and shortcomings are usually significantly greater than the beneficiaries of the hero’s courage and honor.

To love and sacrifice for more than a season and stick around through not only the difficult times, but all the seasons of the lives of those entrusted to us, are the actions of the unsung heroes.  We all have internal conflicts, but the actions that we take with courage and honor that point to the Origin of all that is decent and good, despite our struggles, is what true living legends are born of.

I’ve come to figure out that riding off into the sunset is the easy way out and only hides insecurity and sadness. I also know that “happily ever after” comes later…  We’ve all got a story to write and tell as the days stack up into months, and years… chapters if you will. How our living stories end is up to us…  with the free will that enables us to stay in for the long haul or pull down slightly on the brim of our hat, turn, and ride into the sunset…